I got my voice back, I name names

Portnoy is back and has some grievances.

Two weeks ago, 46-year-old Dave Portnoy called one of his “emergency press conferences” to announce that he had bought back Barstool Sports for $1 with various commissions from Penn Entertainment.

He promised never to sell it again.

And Penn, which acquired Barstool outright for $551 million earlier this year, would launch a sportsbook offering with ESPN.

As he explained, it turned out that Barstool Sports, a media and entertainment company that thrives on not being muzzled, is not the best choice for a regulated industry like sports gambling.

Barstool has a loyal following known as “Stoolies” for her numerous podcasts, YouTube and social media series, which cover everything from comedy, sports and sex to food and celebs – all with a raw, irreverent edge touch.

Dave Portnoy with the first edition of Barstool Sports.
Portnoy with the first copy of Barstool Sports on display in her office.

They sell merchandise and host live events like the upcoming One Bite Pizza Festival, golf tournaments, and Rough and Rowdy, where amateur boxers try to knock each other out in front of the crowds.

And on top of that big top sits Portnoy, known to the Stoolies as “El Presidente.”

It couldn’t have been good for Penn over the past few months, as news headlines surrounding Barstool have pushed the stock price higher. Most recently, Barstool personality Ben Mintz accidentally dropped the N-word on a live stream while reading rap lyrics and got fired.

Dave Portnoy eats a pizza in his orange check overalls.
While in Tennessee, he eats a pizza for his popular One Bite videos.

“I didn’t see it in real time,” Portnoy told The Post of Penn’s decision to part ways with Barstool. “When it happened I was shocked. Happy but shocked,” he said.

He said Penn has always stood behind them, even when the gaming company has been subject to what he called unfair standards from government regulators a Massachusetts Gaming Commission Investigation reportedly stemming from a New York Times report that portrayed him as a degenerate gambler.

He has also claimed Penn was denied licenses because of him and said he thinks the way regulators are treating the company is “painful on a human level.” You just couldn’t win with them.”

Dave Portnoy stands on a stage with his hands outstretched.
Portnoy translated internet success to the real-world fanbase, spawning crowds like this 2017 event in Houston, TX.
John Parra

But Portnoy, to use Kamala Harris’ favorite catchphrase, is now “exonerated”.

In his emergency press conference, he announced: “It’s going back to the pirate ship” – a warning salvo to employees and enemies alike.

“I don’t know if it got my baby back, it got my vote back,” he told The Post of the Barstool buyback.

First, he pointed his bullhorn at his employees, many of whom were out of the office and are now “on hold.”

Dave Portnoy shares pizza with Jon Bon Jovi.
Portnoy became famous for his pizza reviews: here he tastes a pie with Jon Bon Jovi and “Succession” star Nicholas Braun (left) on Houston Street in Lower Manhattan, New York.

“There are many opportunities at Barstool. It has always been. Those who want to work for it will get to the top. And those who walk by are gone,” he said.

There’s a long list of people who would disagree that Portnoy, who essentially invented fistfighting on the internet, ever kept his mouth shut. His list of opponents ranges from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to MSG boss Jim Dolan.

His future goals? State gambling regulators.

“[People] I don’t know what I didn’t talk about, but now I will know,” he said. “Regulators. There are certain individuals by name who I believe have done treacherous things that I have not mentioned. Barstool Sports Book is still the name [on Penn’s gambling operations]. I’ll wait until that moves to ESPN and won’t cause any problems for Penn at any level,” Portnoy said.

He referred to a state gaming regulator, which he describes as “bar stool haters” and “brutally unfair.”

Dave Portnoy and his girlfriend Sylvana Mojica sit courtside during a Celtics game.
Dave Portnoy and his girlfriend Silvana Mojica sit courtside during a Celtics game.
NBAE via Getty Images

“But these people will have their day in court. my dish. The Court of Portnoy.”

The timing of this deal, while unexpected, could not have been more poignant. On August 27, the company will celebrate its 20th anniversary — an unlikely achievement for a company that began as a free gambling newspaper that Portnoy personally distributed at Boston subway stations.

His brash, middle-class take on women, sports, and gambling managed to captivate the city’s thriving bro culture—at a time when Boston’s pro sports teams were on the rise.

The seedy company grew into a multi-city blog online and was acquired by Chernin Media in 2016, allowing Portnoy to hire CEO Erika Ayers Badan (formerly of Nardini), who increased the brand’s online presence.

The first edition of Barstool Sports.
The first issue of Barstool Sports was published on August 27, 2003.

In 2023, Portnoy is worth more than $100 million and bought a racehorse for $650,000 last week.

His bank account swelled from his acid reflux: His desk in a cramped office at their Seventh Avenue headquarters is littered with Prilosec.

The result, he said, is the overconsumption of pizza — an industry he, a Massachusetts Jewish man, has dominated with his “One-Bite” pizza review videos.

Together with Ayers Badan and a ragtag group of employees (Dan “Big Cat” Katz, PFT and Kevin Clancy), Portnoy has built Barstool into a brand with more than 250 million followers on social media. Pardon My Take, hosted by Katz and PFT, is one of the best sports podcasts in the world.

Dan "Big cat" Katz is standing on a red carpet.
Dan “Big Cat” Katz is a popular barstool personality.
Getty Images,

But Portnoy remains a polarizing figure: he is as loved by his “Everyman” audience as he is loathed in media circles. And like an old-school wrestling heel, he thrives on both feelings.

Most of this will certainly be considered when the company gathers in Boston next week for an awards ceremony to celebrate its two decades.

“I don’t keep scrapbooks. My mom does, so I’m sure I’ll have something crazy from her. But I don’t know how much you want to keep because to me the press is 60/40 bad.”

The good guys were euphoric. “The sale to Penn [in 2020] Because holy shit, we did it. From then on, the deal was “beyond my wildest dreams,” whether it worked out financially or not.

Portnoy and his girlfriend Silvana Mojica pose on a red carpet.
Portnoy and his girlfriend Silvana Mojica attend the Ed Sheeran show in the Hamptons.
Getty Images for SiriusXM

There was also the Barstool Fund, a grassroots campaign that raised over $40 million to save small businesses during the pandemic.

“Even though I’m black at heart, I know that money and a lot of these places have done exactly what they were supposed to do; They survive and thrive. That’s so great.”

The worst came in late 2021, when Insider published two articles describing “violent” and “painful” sexual encounters he had with several anonymous young women.

He firmly denied the allegations and filed a lawsuit for defamation. It was dismissed by a federal judge.

“The headlines were brutal. And people still tell me that today. Not only was it challenging, it was also scary. People can take my word for it, but they don’t have to. There’s no truth to that, and I felt like I needed the evidence to show clearly that there wasn’t any evidence of that at all,” he said, describing himself as “totally honest.”

Dave Portnoy and Erika Ayers Badan stand side by side.
Portnoy and CEO Erika Ayers Badan pose in their former offices in 2018.
Annie Wermiel/NY Post

That honesty can extend from deeper matters to small things, including who Tom Brady should be dating. As rumors circulated that retired NFL star Kim Kardashian was set to meet Portnoy expressed his disapproval such a pairing. Brady, Portnoy said, deserves a woman “above the fight” like Kate Beckinsale or Jennifer Aniston.

Will he be invited to Brady’s hypothetical wedding?

“I’m sure I wouldn’t do that. I’ve met him a few times and if I saw him I’d say hello. But we’re not real friends.”

Not like New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, whom he considers a real sidekick. Last week, both men attended a secret Ed Sheeran concert, where Kraft boasted to Howard Stern about Portnoy’s deal to buy back Barstool, then quipped, “We Bostonians gotta stick together.”

Robert Kraft and Roger Goodell
Portnoy’s friend, Patriots owner Bob Kraft, takes a walk with Portnoy’s nemesis, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Getty Images/Kevin Dietsch

It has been hailed as a great deal for Portnoy but comes with significant financial challenges.

“We lost money. When I owned it myself, we always made money,” he said.

He bought back Barstool to “secure the future”. And I worry about our idiots out there who would have no future, no life, nothing if they didn’t work here, I wish I didn’t.”

As this new chapter begins, it’s not all praise from Portnoy: it’s clear some heads might roll.

Dave Portnoy stands in front of his working staff.
After berating his staff for not being in the office, Portnoy is in a far fuller line.

“I think I’m quite a popular boss, even if I can be a jerk to people. I think people are empowered. And I’m definitely strengthened.”

The first task is to work with CEO Ayers Badan to back up the numbers. “We’re bringing the business back to safety. We have to break even. That’s my goal,” he said, adding, “I’m not a total humanitarian. The new era begins now.”

Caroline Bleakley

Caroline Bleakley is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Caroline Bleakley joined USTimeToday in 2022 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with Caroline Bleakley by emailing carolinebleakley@ustimetoday.com.

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