(Bloomberg) -- Matija Pecotic’s breakthrough week had nothing to do with his day job at Wexford Real Estate Investors.
The 33-year-old Croatian, who works full time as a director of capital markets for the West Palm Beach, Florida-based firm, made a fairytale debut at the Delray Beach Open before losing in straight sets on Wednesday night to world No. 55 Marcos Giron. Spectators in the crowd included Venus Williams and Mike Tyson.
It’s been an improbable past few days for the world No. 784, who landed a qualifying berth in Delray as an alternate when he learned of an open spot upon collecting his rackets from an on-site stringer. Over the weekend, he won qualifying matches against Americans Stefan Kozlov and Tennys Sandgren, before posting the upset of his life — and first ATP Tour main draw win — on Tuesday over former world No. 8 and 2017 Delray Beach Open champion Jack Sock.
“Hopefully this has shown that I can play at a high level,” the left-hander told Bloomberg News. “I’ve actually never gotten a wild card to any event in my life — all my results have been meritocratic, so if this leads to opportunities at other big events, I would consider putting Wexford on pause, I wouldn’t quit,” Pecotic said.
Wexford Capital is led by co-founders Chuck Davidson and Joe Jacobs, who watched Pecotic’s match against Giron with other colleagues.
“My two bosses are tennis fanatics, they know my heart’s still in the game,” said Pecotic.
A three-time Ivy League Player of the Year at Princeton University, Pecotic reached a career-high of world No. 206 in 2015 before a health issue the following year forced him to take a hiatus from tennis. He then took the GMAT exam, which led him to an MBA at Harvard Business School.
Pecotic had another crack at the tour after his Boston stint, before the Covid-19 pandemic derailed his plans and he decided to move to Palm Beach, where he fell into a “more sedentary” office lifestyle. He said he had to “learn how to model, learn how Bloomberg works, learn how hedge fund meetings work, learn how real estate development works.”
Before Wexford, Pecotic worked at Bill Ackman’s family office, Table Management. “He’s been a great friend and supporter,” said Pecotic, adding that Ackman provided him with financial backing as he was wrapping up his time at Princeton.
His first encounter with Ackman in 2013 is another memorable tale.
“I was warming up Novak Djokovic for the US Open, he needed a lefty because he was preparing for Rafa and I beat him in some tie-breaks,” said Pecotic, referring to Spain’s Rafael Nadal. “Bill came up to me after the practice and said, ‘Hey kid, that was great...meet your new backer, my name’s Bill Ackman.”
While at Table, Pecotic said he regularly hit with Ackman. “That was part of the deal — he said, ‘You teach me tennis, I’ll teach you investing.’”
Ackman has also backed tennis star Frances Tiafoe, the son of a tennis center janitor who emigrated from Sierra Leone to the US. The 25-year-old reached the US Open semifinals last September, and hit a career-high world ranking of 14 last week.
After the tournament, Pecotic’s calendar looks a lot more like those of most Wall Street executives.
“I have a four-hour pipeline meeting on Thursday, where we have to go through 43 projects,” he said, explaining that Wexford opportunistically invests from its balance sheet alongside co-investors such as family offices and individuals in multifamily properties, limited-service hotels and senior-living facilities. “We haven’t invested in office for the last 13 years.”
Still, pipeline meetings could soon be replaced with more baseline action. Djokovic, the reigning world No. 1, had a message for Pecotic on Instagram on Thursday. Translated from Croatian: “Matija, my brother! You don’t belong in the office just yet. See you on the court soon.”
(Updates with Djokovic social post in final paragraph.)
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