One of the best things about going out on the all-star circuit is the people I meet. Pretty much, if you’re at the Senior Bowl, you’re either part of the business or you’re hoping to become part of it. One of the people I met at this year’s trip to Mobile is part of both of those groups.
James Walker recently left ESPN to become a part of Adeptus CPAs. Moving from sports media to numbers-crunching is not a particularly common path, so I wanted to dig into why and how he wound up with Adeptus. My questions and his answers follow.
Why leave sports media for sports accounting?
“The timing couldn’t be better. It’s no secret that sports media is having issues. Recently ESPN, my former employer, had two rounds of layoffs last April and November that impacted hundreds of talented people. Fortunately I wasn’t part of those layoffs. But it did force me to rethink my career and decide if this was a battle I wanted to fight for the next 25 years, because I’m still in my 30s. Over the summer I decided getting out the business entirely was the best long-term play. So I began discussing this with my business contacts in August and received some good feedback and interest. I was very happy to ultimately land with Adeptus CPAs.”
Why was Adeptus a good match?
“They are creative and forward thinkers, and so am I. What other CPA firm would hire a sports reporter without accounting experience? What longtime sports reporter, who spent the past decade at ESPN, would give up his life’s work to join a CPA firm? It took outside-the-box thinking on both sides to make this work. Adeptus was willing to create a new position for me as lead recruiter, which I am very grateful for. And I am leveraging my 15 years of pro sports experience, contacts, access and credibility into accounting. We have a good long-term vision for where things are headed and are very excited.”
What are some of those long-term goals?
“We want to be the go-to accounting firm for pro athletes, coaches and executives. That’s the primary goal. Currently we are doing most of our business in the NHL and MLB. I will recruit all pro sports but a major objective is to boost our NFL clientele, which is in my wheelhouse. Something that was really exciting while researching the sports accounting industry is there is no single, dominant player in the marketplace. There is not a CAA for sports accounting, for example, who already has a gigantic chunk of the industry. Most of the work is spread out. I very much believe in the quality of work and team we have at Adeptus. So why not us?”
How will you look back at your reporting career?
“Very fondly. No doubt there will be things I miss, such as covering the big games and interesting stories. But I accomplished everything I wanted and more in sports reporting. I covered four Super Bowls, the Pro Bowl, NBA Finals, major college sports and did national television and radio hundreds of times. I traveled all across the country and worked at the No. 1 sports network for 10 years. Throughout my life I’m usually self-aware when it’s time to make important changes, and this is another example of that. Fortunately I still get to be involved in sports but in a different capacity.”