Brandon Short says he’s found a way to recapture the excitement he experienced playing football for the New York Giants almost six years ago.
The former National Football League linebacker left Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Dubai unit last month to start a closely held Islamic lender that will specialize in loans to small and medium-sized companies, a market he says is underserved by banks across the Middle East.
“I’ve been blessed to live the dream in the NFL, but I find that doing something entrepreneurial gives me that same thrill and energy,” Short, 35, said in a telephone interview in Dubai. “If you can master finance, it can give you flexibility to do anything within business and that was really the driving force for me.”
The lender, World Business Partners UAE, will use a sale-and-lease model to provide finance that complies with Islam’s ban on interest. It will start operations in September, offering loans ranging from 35,000 dirhams to 1.5 million dirhams ($9,500 to $410,000), he said. The company will also work within Islamic bans on investment in alcohol, firearms and other prohibited products.
“In the Middle East and North Africa, there is limited access to capital and that represents a significant opportunity for us to come in and meet the demand of small businesses,” he said.
Many banks in the region shun funding for small companies. In Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s largest economy, 2 percent of bank loans go to small and medium-sized enterprises, according to the International Finance Corp., the World Bank’s private lending arm. That compares with an average of 8 percent in the Middle East, which itself is low by global standards.
The lack of lending is the result of the region’s relatively immature debt markets, according to Short, who worked at New York-based Goldman as an investment banking executive for three years before quitting last month to start World Business Partners.
Short founded the firm with Doug Naidus, former managing director of residential lending at Deutsche Bank AG (DBK), and Alex Gemici, who founded Dubai-based boutique investment bank Greenstone Equity Partners.
Small businesses “play an essential role in private sector growth and they are a significant contributor to employment and economic development,” he said.
Dubai’s economy is set to expand 4.6 percent, on average, between 2012 and 2015, government forecasts show, as the second-biggest sheikhdom in the United Arab Emirates is bolstered by a rebound in the tourism, trade and retail industries.
Short was a member of the New York Giants team that lost the Super Bowl in 2001 to the Baltimore Ravens, and he also played for the Carolina Panthers. He received his undergraduate degree from Penn State University in 2000 and studied at Columbia Business School after leaving the NFL. Short joined Goldman in 2010 and moved to Dubai last year, allowing him to see opportunities in the region’s growing economies.
Other NFL players have entered finance after ending their football careers. Steve Young, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005, is a managing director and co-founder of Huntsman Gay Global Capital LLC. Former New York Jets wide receiver Wayne Chrebet works for Barclays Plc’s investment-banking unit. HRJ Capital LLC, a fund-of-funds founded by 49ers defenders Harris Barton and Ronnie Lott, faced insolvency with more than $338 million in unfunded pledges when Capital Dynamics AG of Switzerland acquired its assets in 2009.
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