Dany Garcia may not be a household name, but her fingerprints are in much of the past 10 years of entertainment, athletics, clothing, spirits and finance. She capped off her multimillion-dollar empire when she led the $15 million purchase of the XFL football league in 2020 as the key investor and negotiator for a group consisting of her ex-husband and longtime business partner Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Gerry Cardinale of RedBird Capital Partners.
“I was thinking about what to do next, what’s the next big swing that would really, really get me excited,” Garcia says of buying the league.
The move made her the first woman to own a major professional league in the U.S. As chair of the XFL, Garcia has plans for the once-bankrupt league. The league’s season began in February with eight teams, modified rules that will distinguish it from the NFL and a head-coaching roster that’s an NFL who’s who, including Hall of Famer Rod Woodson, Hines Ward and Terrell Buckley. As she reflects on her journey in building her empire, she’s focused on helping pave that road for other underrepresented professionals by leading by example and creating a more diverse corporate culture.
Dany Garcia is a mover and shaker.
Garcia began her career with Merrill Lynch before founding a private wealth management firm, JDM Partners LLC, then The Garcia Companies, where she serves as chair and CEO.
She’s also had her hands in Hollywood, collaborating with Johnson and her brother Hiram Garcia on Seven Bucks Productions to produce hugely successful films (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Red Notice, Black Adam) and TV shows (Young Rock). She also guides Johnson’s career (and Henry Cavill’s) via TGC Management as his personal manager.
Add in her fashion label GSTQ, her spirit company Teremana Small Batch Tequila and her various other investment holdings and nonprofit ventures, and it’s pretty clear that Garcia is always on the move, adding new facets to her business empire and continuing to take big swings.
Her interest in a sports league isn’t totally left field for her. A daughter of Cuban immigrants, she left her home in New Jersey to attend the University of Miami, where she joined the rowing team.
“My college performance as a varsity rower really defined a lot of who I am,” Garcia says. “Female athletes… we’re a completely different breed. We like to succeed.”
And Dany Garcia is making history.
Attaining the distinction of being the first woman to own a major professional league in the U.S. wasn’t the engine that led to her interest in the XFL—“I love football!” she laughs—but after the purchase deal cemented, she realized the deeper meaning of her achievement.
“It was just about the acquisition while it was happening—it was about getting the league and preparing for the vision [of] what this new XFL could be,” she says. “About a month after the announcement, my publicist realized and shared with me that I had made history. That was a jarring moment for me,” Garcia admits.
Garcia says she was forced to examine all the steps and hurdles she’d had to go through along the way and reflect on what it took “to get into a position where I could pull the trigger and have individuals around me saying, ‘We believe in your vision, and we believe in your leadership for this,’” she says. “It made me understand that I’m doing something that will inspire many, many individuals. And hopefully many, many women.”
Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace culture
The business mogul may not have considered the impact of her XFL purchase, but she’s been fully aware for a long time that the culture of a company comes from the top. For her, that means focusing on making her companies places where empathy—and even vulnerability—are appreciated, not ridiculed, and creating an environment, both internally and externally, that shows exactly how diverse the world actually is.
“In the beginning of my professional career, after college, it was a matter of just put your head down and go, go, go,” she says. “Be the best in the room.
“By the way,” Garcia adds, “you look around; you’re the only female in the room, so you know you have to be the best, be overprepared. Then, as I started to get my legs underneath me, I’m looking around and saying, ‘Look at this room; look who’s not here.’”
Dany Garcia leads by example.
These experiences led her to use her companies to “show by example.” That meant hiring a diverse group of people to make up the executive team of The Garcia Companies—a philosophy that extends to the XFL as Garcia builds her team.
“The conversation does matter. Ownership matters. It absolutely matters,” she says. “[We] cast the widest net, and because of that openness, we have had the best individuals come forward. Once you remove those biases, all of this incredible talent is lying before me, waiting for a chance.”
She says this applies to every aspect of her businesses, “from the types of movies we are making, the people we hire to direct and star, straight to the XFL, hiring diverse people. It is deliberate, and we’re very, very aware of the fact that we are saying, ‘This is the world. This is not only how the world can be [but] how the world should be. And doesn’t it feel great? Aren’t we all winning?’”
Her entire organization, herself included, is going through a yearlong training and coaching experience that examines their professional and personal lives. In 2021, they went through bias and minority training, she says. This year they will go through training on male bias—“and how it impacts not only the men that work with us but the women—how we have been indoctrinated,” she says. “We’re saying to everyone that we want you to be better, and we want the lives that you live to be better, in all of our organizations. We have that responsibility. So, it’s really, really important to us, and we work hard year after year to never move away from that. Culture is everything.”
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo by Obidigbo Nzeribe.
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