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Boris Gartner knew something needed to change. It was the summer of 2018, and Gartner was headed to Europe with his family. He was fresh off a two-year stint in Mexico City where he helped restructure Televisa’s content operation, growing prime-time ratings in Mexico by 16 percent, saving the company over $60 million, and building a digital-first team that grew its outreach and digital footprint by 44 percent—all in a year.
By his thirties, Gartner was already a veteran media executive. He’d driven revenue, savings, and innovation for Televisa, Univision, Fusion TV, and a whole host of partners and joint ventures. He was a heavy hitter in his field by any indicator.
But something needed to change.
“I was burnt out,” Gartner remembers. “I spent almost two years living between Mexico and Miami with a wife and new daughter who were living in Miami full time. It was too much for us, and so I decided to take time off and moved to Europe with my family for a few months, including spending a month in Russia to attend the World Cup, and just reset our life.”
After several months and the completion of the World Cup, Gartner and his family were returning to the US when he got a phone call from an old friend, effectively asking him what he wanted out of his life.
“I don’t know what I want to do, but I know what I don’t want to do,” Gartner recalls telling his friend. “I wanted some kind of experience outside of the corporate and traditional media space.”
That’s how Gartner got to Madrid-headquartered LALIGA, the top men’s professional football division of the elite Spanish football league system. That league includes Real Madrid’s thirty-five and Barcelona’s twenty-seven titles and Lionel Messi’s 474 career goals (before he moved to Inter Miami CF in 2023).
Oddly enough, it was a different kind of football that would bring Gartner to LALIGA. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and Daniel Sillman partnered with LALIGA through their Relevent Sports Group to bring the elite league to the Western Hemisphere as LALIGA North America, which Gartner joined as its CEO.
Gartner says he needed a sabbatical, but he just needed a bigger mountain to climb. Since coming to LALIGA North America in 2018, he’s helped close the two largest media rights deals for LALIGA outside of its home country of Spain.
In 2021, Gartner and company sold its US media rights to ESPN/Disney for eight years and $1.4 billion. Months later in 2021, the league was able to extend its deal with Televisa for Mexico and Central America for eight years and $560 million.
As he got close to Ross and Sillman, he joined Relevent Sports as a partner to help build a content and media business for the company and revamped their events platform, all betting on the growth of soccer in the United States, which is driven by the growth of the Hispanic community. Beyond the LALIGA joint venture, Relevent now represents UEFA’s club competitions media rights in the US and operates both the English Premier League Summer Series and LALIGA Summer Series events across North America.
There’s little question why Gartner was recognized as a “40 Under 40” by Sports Business Journal in 2022, “Leaders Under 40” by Leaders in Sport in 2020, and a whole host of accommodations from the prior decade.
When asked about the success he’s experienced in such a young career, Gartner repeatedly goes to those who have opened doors and provided guidance for him along his path.
“I am someone that has always had the benefit of finding people that have taken chances on me and who have put me in positions where I may not have been the obvious choice, and strong mentors that have helped me grow immensely,” Gartner explains. “The first person that comes to mind is Isaac Lee at Univision. He hired me to help reorganize and run the business side of the news department even though I was coming from finance and had no experience in the media industry. We were able to expand the news organization and make it profitable, which is a relative rarity. He gave me that chance and I made sure I worked very hard to deliver.”
And with the blessing of Stephen Ross, Gartner has built LALIGA North America’s business, essentially, from scratch. That includes developing a strategy focused on creating demand for the sport and the league anchored on content, with a deep understanding of the fans, and with a clear monetization strategy. Everything from TV rights, licensing, merchandising, sponsorship, and more. The CEO says he was given carte blanche to build it his way.
The result? LALIGA North America exponentially improved its distribution across North America with Disney/ESPN and Televisa/Sky, partnered with top brands (including Verizon, Motorola, and Chubb, among others) at a regional level, and has built a closer relationship with stakeholders in the region. Also, LALIGA was profitable by its second year.
Off the Clock with Boris Gartner
Boris Gartner is very vocal about how many mentors have helped him navigate his own career. He’s now “paying it forward” by being a mentor for others in a multitude of ways.
Gartner is currently an advisory board member for Minorities in Sports Business, a network that serves as a primary resource for diverse individuals in sports to connect, network, and support each other.
The LALIGA North America CEO is also a board member of human rights nonprofit Polaris, an organization dedicated to working with survivors of human trafficking. Gartner says he’s especially proud that through work like his own, Polaris was able to build the only hotline for sex trafficking in the United States.
“The main difference between us and some of our competitors is that we run this like a business,” Gartner says. “This is not just a marketing function. We want to grow and maximize our profits and help push it back to the league and the clubs.”
In growing international soccer fandom in North America, Relevent’s event business has shifted its model from bringing individual clubs to the US for exhibitions into building an entire platform for leagues to directly bring its teams over and build their own brand platforms. Now those in North and South America will more easily be able to see their favorite Premier League and LALIGA players on tour through events organized and promoted by Relevent.
With a series of marquee events coming up over the next several years, including Copa America in 2024 and the next World Cup in 2026, football/fútbol/soccer has never had a better moment in the sun. Gartner, a Colombian by heritage, says the sport of Hispanics is well on its way to becoming the sport of everyone.
“It’s been an honor to bring my personal experience as a Latino to LALIGA and Relevent,” Gartner says. “I bring my background and my cultural diversity with me to help others understand just how many people can connect with the passion and the lifestyle of this game. But beyond that, it is exciting to see the general market understand the scale and power of the Hispanic community and how much we can all win and capitalize on the increasing attention to the Hispanic consumer.”