After an 18-year, all-star career in professional hockey that included playing for the 2004 Stanley Cup-winning Tampa Bay Lightning, Martin St. Louis retired from the ice.
It was 2015 and St. Louis found himself in a spot similar to other retired professional athletes: What do you do next?
“When I retired, I was 39 turning 40 and I was playing with kids much younger than me,” he recalled with a laugh. “But coming out of hockey, I didn’t know what my next move was going to be. I wasn’t going to jump into a nine-to-five.”
The native Canadian had a bachelor of science degree in community development and applied economics from the University of Vermont. But his hockey career kept him from transferring his education into a professional pursuit.
Shortly after hanging up his skates, St. Louis sought insight from someone who had been in a similar situation: Jeff Hamilton, a former hockey player who retired from the sport in 2011. Hamilton segued into a successful second career as director of Greenwich Realty Capital, a commercial real estate investment firm.
“We sat down and started shooting ideas,” said St. Louis, adding that the pair jotted their initial thoughts on a paper napkin while having coffee at a café. “People were always saying to us, ‘Hey, do you want to invest in this? Do you want to invest in that?’ I felt I could build something.”
But St. Louis was not eager to rush into just any venture and worked with Hamilton to map out a potential game plan.
“This has been two years in the making,” he said. “For us, it wasn’t a race. We were
trying to be thorough — we didn’t jump right into it. We took our time and didn’t just
The result of their collaboration came last month with the debut of a private investment company called Seven7, the numerical name formed in tribute to the numbers they wore — Hamilton’s NHL jersey bore 51, while St. Louis’ was 26.
Hamilton brought in Keith McCullough, founder and CEO of Hedgeye Risk Management, the Wall Street research firm, as a partner in the venture. McCullough also had a hockey connection, as a one-time member of Yale University’s varsity hockey team and a former co-owner of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. Two Hedgeye executives make up the Seven7 leadership team: Hedgeye President Michael Blum has the same title with Seven7 while Hedgeye’s director of research Daryl Jones is the head of the investment committee at
the new firm.
Seven7 shares Hedgeye’s offices at 1 High Ridge Road in Stamford, with St. Louis dividing his time between that location and his home office in Stamford. On its website, Seven7 promotes its services as providing “financial, strategic and operational support to early-stage companies,” while also promising access to “a number of limited partners who have been selected based on their potential to source ideas and add operational value.” The capital for the company is sourced from the Seven7 principals and silent investors.
St. Louis acknowledged that this new endeavor is a very different challenge for him.
“I don’t pretend to be smarter than I am,” he said. “I am new to this and I am learning every day. I definitely rely on Keith’s expertise and the resources he has.”
Still, St. Louis’ knowledge of hockey has helped drive three of Seven7s initial investment efforts: Sauce Hockey, a sports apparel company; EZ Ice, a customized backyard ice rink that can be installed in under an hour on any surface; and LiveBarn, an online broadcaster of amateur and youth sports across the U.S. and Canada, including hockey games.
“What I’m comfortable with right now is anything with sports,” St. Louis said. “As we progress, we are going to diversify the portfolio. We’re not just going to be a sport company. We like innovation.”
There is already one nonsports entity receiving Seven7 investment: Clean Plate Restaurants, which acquires and manages a portfolio of independent and small chain restaurants. St. Louis declined to detail the depth and scope of investment funding that Seven7 provides, but he noted that he was looking for both long-haul partnerships with new companies and a long-haul presence in the investment sector.
“My goal is to build something strong,” he said. “There is no timeline. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I want to take it in stride and learn along the way. I’ve always loved being on a team. Seven7 is a great team, but at a different level.”