When one thinks of the people at the Los Angeles Lakers, it’s easy to imagine the larger-than-life players, the Hollywood sheen, and the fireworks that embody the seventeen-time NBA champions. But when speaking with Director of Business Analytics & Strategy Christina Khosravi, CFO Joe McCormack, and Senior Director of Corporate Development & Planning Elaine Shen, it’s something else that makes the most startling first impression.
What abounds most profoundly from a conversation with all three is an approach centered in trust, teamwork, and respect. These are finance team members who pay tribute to each colleague who has helped the Lakers make it through one of the most difficult periods in modern history.
But today, the focus is on Khosravi.
A Star Player
Khosravi joined the Lakers in 2017, but she started her career at Barclays Investment Bank in New York City. She remembers the beginning of her career well, as she began her job in September 2008 with her employer acquiring the assets of what remained of Lehman Brothers.
“Right out of college, I was immediately exposed to utilizing large sets of data in planning scenarios and helping our clients understand what their positions would mean to their respective bottom lines,” Khosravi explains.
Khosravi transitioned into sports after graduating from UCLA Anderson, where a background in finance, data relationships, and scenario planning propelled her interest in working in sports analytics. Her day-to-day focus as head of business analytics and strategy at the Lakers is to provide data-based insights and recommendations, and she’s been adding value since day one.
“We had a lot of strong candidates for Christina’s role,” Shen says. “But what really stood out for us was her finance experience and her passion for business analytics and its ability to impact revenue streams.”
Khosravi manages a team that includes individuals in CRM and data strategy and digital analyst roles. They work closely with revenue-generating departments—ticketing, corporate partnerships, and marketing—similar to an internal consulting arm.
She additionally helps with finance projects, including dashboards for visual financial metrics and analyses for strategic planning. Her background helps her to contribute readily to the in-house capability of the Lakers finance team and allows her to partner easily with external corporate finance advisors when specialized expertise or independent perspective is desired.
Negotiating a Crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic tested the resiliency of individuals and organizations alike. One of the most telling examples of the Lakers’ values was its emphasis on retaining its entire staff.
“I think it says a lot about the executive team and management here that, while focusing on maintaining our internal workforce, also took a step back to determine how to support the individuals that operate our games, partnering with AEG and the tenant teams at Staples Center in creating a fund to support arena staff,” Khosravi says.
McCormack credits the IT department, under the leadership of Chief Technology Officer Rick Allen, with the swift transition to work-from-home set-ups within a matter of days, allowing for critical business continuity. He also credits the accounting department, led by AJ Harris, vice president of finance and accounting and controller, who pivoted to paperless and electronic banking.
During this period, Khosravi played a key role in the arena lease renewal and agreement. “We were dedicated to understanding every inch of the lease that had been signed and revised over the last twenty seasons,” Khosravi says. “We wanted to focus on enhancing the fan experience, growing revenues together, and really building a value-based partnership.”
Khosravi said the negotiation was viewed much more as a collaborative partnership with AEG and all parties worked to achieve value collectively. “There was a lot of data collection and interpretation, and that was all Christina,” McCormack says. “Every other week there was an entirely new set of information to dive into and question.”
Shen agrees, highlighting the qualitative expertise Khosravi was able to bring—especially in viewing through the lens of how other teams navigate their lease agreements. “While we rely on Christina for the numbers and data,” she says, “the research and additional context she brings really elevates her contributions.”
For Khosravi and her team, a season without fans in attendance did not distract them from both short-term and long-term goals. “We revamped our tech stack, transitioning to new partners with custom products best suited to our business needs,” Khosravi says. “We prioritized our loyal and dedicated fan base, diving into better understanding preferences and touchpoints with the short-term goal of being able to welcome them back seamlessly to Lakers games this season.”
Cross-department collaboration was key as the business analytics and strategy team leveraged a close partnership with IT and legal. This initiative will continue to pay dividends in the long term as the Lakers consider the enhanced fan experience for seasons to come.
A Connected Organization
What may be hard to illustrate is how much all three of them reference each other and the wider Lakers organization throughout the conversation. From Lakers CEO Jeanie Buss and the wider Buss family to President of Business Operations Tim Harris to General Counsel Dan Grigsby, it’s clear that the finance team is impactful because of its collaboration and cohesion within an organization that is aware that it operates better when it’s on the same page.
This mindset may have been a contributor to the Lakers’ 2019-2020 championship-winning season.
“I’m always reminded of something Tim Harris says,” Khosravi says. “‘We’re in the people business, and that’s not only for fans to build a relationship with the team, but for us to build relationships with each other.’ The value and importance of growing those relationships is clear in every conversation we have.”
“She’s right,” McCormack agrees. “Every year is a different challenge, but it’s the people here like Christina that keep this place strong and attract the kind of talent we have.”
Stout is proud to help recognize Christina, Elaine, Joe, and the entire Lakers finance team as they continue to lead the evolution of sports finance.
Stout is a global investment bank and advisory firm specializing in corporate finance, valuation, financial disputes, and investigations. We serve a range of clients, from public corporations to privately held companies across numerous industries, including professional sports. For thirty years, our clients and their advisors have relied on our premier expertise, deep industry knowledge, and unparalleled responsiveness on complex financial matters.
Stout and the Lakers share the belief that open minds, strategic collaboration, and the relentless pursuit of excellence on behalf of our clients is paramount to success. Like the Lakers, Stout has a meticulous track record of delivering results and maintains the highest client satisfaction rating in our industry.
“Over the years, the Lakers finance team has continued to impress us with their ability to address increasingly complex and diverse corporate finance issues in the ever-changing industry of professional sports, all while sustaining the unique culture that Dr. Buss instilled.” —Tim Cummins, Managing Director
“Data analytics has the power to unleash new insights for innovative organizations such as the Lakers. Christina’s expertise has led to great benefits for the organization and will undoubtedly drive continued innovation and future success.” —Jeff Mordaunt, Managing Director