Then & Now: Britt survives 9/11, shifts to sports biz

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 957 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the March 14 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.

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Michael Britt was meeting for breakfast on the ground floor of the World Trade Center when terrorists crashed a hijacked commercial aircraft into the tower above him on 9/11. He watched as another plane struck the twin towers before taking a ferry crossing the Hudson River to New Jersey.

The south tower started to collapse when he boarded the ferry and departed Manhattan with a debris cloud in its wake. He noted the ferry is in the cover photo of the Sept. 15-21, 2001, issue of The Economist.

“That was honestly the scariest moment,” he said about the 9/11 ferry trip. “When we’re in the middle of the Hudson River, the first military jets came on to the scene … It breezes right by us, and I see it circle the Statue of Liberty. That gave me goosebumps whenever that happened.”

The month before the terrorist attacks, the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named Britt to the Forty Under 40 class of 2001. The Fayetteville native was a portfolio manager for Fayetteville-based investment firm Greenwood & Associates.

Britt, 48, had come to New York for an economics conference with several colleagues of the firm, including the owner, Mary Ann Greenwood. After the first plane slammed into the twin towers, he went across the street to call his wife on a payphone to tell her he was OK when he saw the second aircraft plunge into the south tower.

While noting there’s more to his 9/11 experience, he eventually rented a vehicle and drove home after a Jersey City stay. He said the events of 9/11 led him and his wife, Pamela, to start a family. They have two daughters, Ella and Juliana, and a son, Hudson.

In 2002, he joined Merrill Lynch as a financial adviser and was part of a group that opened the first Smith Barney office in Northwest Arkansas in 2003.

He transitioned to the sports business following the Great Recession, when an investor group, including Little Rock-based Stephens Inc., looked to rebuild a struggling business. He said his passion for helping people and schools and his interest in sports led him into the business.

“I had a pretty good run in the financial business,” he said. “I was there from when I graduated college to 2009, so 13 years. It felt like it was a good change to go broaden horizons and also a very interesting and unique opportunity to go fix a company that does good for schools and was also involved with the sports business.”

He joined 5 Star Sports in Fayetteville as vice president of finance in November 2009. He was promoted to chief financial officer in 2012 and became president in 2015. After an acquisition, the company rebranded to Mascot Media in 2016 as it expanded its digital offerings for school athletics programs.

The company offers digital media services for more than 1,000 schools in the region, mainly in Arkansas and Texas. Services include providing websites and apps showing school athletics information and live streaming sporting events.

“We’re on the cutting edge of the streaming revolution and the media revolution that is permeating all levels of sports,” he said. “It’s now getting to the high school level, so we’re enabling schools like Bentonville, Bentonville West, Siloam Springs and Fayetteville to create their own sports network.”

He added that the Fayetteville-based company shares ad revenue with the schools for which it provides custom platforms. It has about 50 employees, including staff in Dallas and Austin, Texas.

In 2019, an Austin-based private investor acquired Stephens’ shares in the company. Amid the pandemic, demand increased for its digital products, such as live streaming sporting events. He noted, however, that ad revenue was affected but has since nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels. He declined to provide revenue numbers.

His career highlight has been the opportunity to mentor and develop employees, personally and professionally. The next big goal in his career is to expand Mascot Media’s platform to reach schools nationwide.

He spends his free time attending his children’s sporting events and visiting his eldest daughter, who’s attending Hendrix College.