A couple of months ago, with Major League Baseball’s spring training in full swing, it wouldn’t have been unusual to find Jeffrey R. Wallner on the field with players from the Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds or other teams. But he wasn’t providing tips on batting or evaluating pitching technique. He was there to review contracts, realign portfolios and educate rookies on investing and handling personal finances.
Wallner, like many boys, fantasized about becoming a baseball player. He then became an All-American college player and was drafted by three major league teams. Unfortunately, he injured his knee, and his baseball career came to a halt. He then took up bartending in a country club. Lucky for him, it was frequented by Wall Street power players, one of whom hired Wallner. That ultimately led to his cofounding of Lighthouse Financial Group and his serving as president of the Sports and Entertainment Division of the Private Banking Group, where he represents Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox and players Ken Griffey Jr. of the Reds and Paul Lo Duca of the Washington Nationals, among others.
What’s refreshing is that, not only does Wallner take a conservative approach and advise his sports clients to preserve their capital and live off the interest, he puts his own money where his mouth is. Like his clients, he has about 60 percent of his portfolio in tax-free bonds. He has 20 percent of his portfolio in private-equity deals, where he notes there’s risk “but you can make big returns.” One of his private-equity deals is Integrated Beverage Group, maker of Power Ice and other sports/health drinks, among others. Ten percent of his portfolio is diversified in blue-chip stocks from “everyday” companies—companies you use and understand, he says. He holds American Express (NYSE: AXP), Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO), Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE). The remaining 10 percent of Wallner’s portfolio is cash.