Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini: There is nothing this cult-like, male-focused media brand can’t do

  • "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer sat down with Barstool Sports' founder, Dave Portnoy, and CEO, Erika Nardini, to discuss the controversial brand's rise to power.
  • Nardini said thanks to Barstool's faithful audience, there's nothing the company can't do.

Erika Nardini, a former AOL executive who landed the CEO job at Barstool Sports in 2016 as the only woman out of roughly 70 candidates, had been a fan of Barstool founder Dave Portnoy's from the beginning, she told CNBC on Monday.

"Barstool, to me, is what guys say, it's how they think, it's how they talk, it's what they love, and here was this guy who took a bet on himself and strived to build something and I wanted to be a part of it," she told "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer in a joint interview with Portnoy.

Asked whether she had any price constraints on her mind when it came to selling the privately-held company whose online content has been criticized at times for being sexist, she offered a flat "No."

In October, ESPN said it stepped away from Barstool after a podcast contained offensive remarks against women. But shortly after, SiriusXM gave Barstool a daily show to deliver what the satellite radio company calls an "unfiltered and irreverent take on all things sports, pop culture, and men's lifestyle."

"We're a big media company. We are a huge brand," Nardini said. "Because we have a loyal audience that has been with Dave for 14 years, and all of our guys — Big Cat, KFC, our whole roster — we can do anything. We can become a commerce company. We can sell shoes. We can be an alcohol brand. We can create a boxing promoter. There is nothing that this company can't do because we have an audience, we listen to them and we create only for them."

Having built a huge media brand with its finger on the pulse of a cult-like following, Portnoy jokingly told Cramer that he could see himself eventually stepping down.

"I'd like to sell the company for at least $250 million and retire and go live and golf," the founder joked.

According to a report by Bloomberg, the latest round of funding put Barstool's value at around $100 million.

Portnoy said there was "no grand plan" when he started the company by himself 15 years ago.

Creating aliases for himself so people wouldn't know it was a one-man project, Portnoy would write and hand out Barstool newspapers on the subway, hoping something would stick.

Little did Portnoy know that his efforts would snowball into a media powerhouse with millions of social media followers, a video series, a radio show and big-name advertisers.

Both Portnoy and Nardini agreed that large advertisers are warming up to their controversial brand, which has landed in its fair share of hot water with high-profile partners like Disney's ESPN.

Portnoy called Barstool's relationship with Chernin Group, an investment firm that holds the majority stake in Barstool, was "the perfect marriage" because Chernin believed in Barstool's message.

"That's why we haven't changed, we haven't backed down at all, and why we still get in trouble a lot," Portnoy said. "But we've stayed true to who we are."

On Tuesday, Chernin invested an additional $15 million in Barstool, which the company said it plans to use to invest in physical properties like bars and build out one of its recent boxing-related acquisitions, Rough N Rowdy.

"People love us, they hate us, but you have to respect what we've built," Nardini told Cramer. "And we've done it because we're on the same level as our fans. And that's why they buy and that's why they watch and that's why they read and that's why they listen."

Watch Dave Portnoy and Erika Nardini's full interview here:

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