Football and private equity could benefit from similar changes, says NFL Hall of Famer

Key Points
  • Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young cofounded private equity firm HGGC in 2000.
  • Since then, he's learned that the best private equity investments come from solid partnerships with companies.
  • Similarly, he said the NFL will need to embrace partnering with players and local communities promoting social justice.
Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young talks about his private equity firm
Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young talks about his private equity firm

NFL pro turned private-equity investor Steve Young believes football and his latest venture could benefit from the same strategy: partnership.

He not only makes that an important part of his business, but he thinks the National Football League should embrace the strategy when it comes to social justice issues, such as kneeling during the national anthem.

Young was the first left-handed quarterback inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005 after retiring from a 15-season football career in 1999.

In 2000, he cofounded HGGC, a leading private equity firm with over $4.3 billion in cumulative capital commitments. Young oversees five of their portfolio companies: IDERA, Integrity, Dealer-FX, AutoAlert and Innovative. All five offer various forms of technology and data assistance.

"We're really attacking the market in an old-school way: We really look for partnership," Young told CNBC's "Power Lunch" on Thursday.

"Private equity is a science project for many, many years, and when you have a science project, it leaves the human beings as a secondary fact. I think that we’ve tried to introduce this artistic approach to partnership and a holistic approach to the transaction."

Young, who played 13 seasons for the San Francisco 49ers, said momentum in private equity comes from good communication and a strong personal relationship with company leaders.

Similarly, he said the NFL should focus on working with players who want to be involved with social justice by partnering with local communities. He said kneeling during the national anthem should not affect whether a player is hired, explaining that the player should be hired on merit.

"The League, for the first time, is not inelastic for demand," Young said. "They can't be bullies about this. They have to be partners: partners with the players, partners with the public, partners with the city that they live in."

As of now, Young said, about a third of football teams are embracing social justice within their communities, but the whole league needs to get on board.

Young's support for change carries through to his private equity investments: He tends to partner with technology companies and others that seem like they are going to "disrupt" their field, he said.

His next disruption? Improving his golf game at the annual American Century Championship Golf Tournament.