St. Louis magazine has created the 2019 A-List, their tribute to St. Louis’ finest in dining, nightlife, shopping, culture, and more, as selected by readers and editors. This year, St. Louis magazine awarded WWT CEO Jim with the 2019 A-List Visionary award.
Posted by St. Louis magazine on June 17, 2019:
In some ways, Jim Kavanaugh’s entire life has led to this moment. The Blues co-owner has watched the team reach the Stanley Cup for the first time since he was a boy growing up in a blue-collar family. The company he co-founded, World Wide Technology, is about to turn 30 and has doubled down on its investment in the community, building a state-of-the-art headquarters in Maryland Heights and an industrial facility in Edwardsville. And since teaming up with the Taylor family, including Enterprise Holdings Foundation president Carolyn Kindle Betz, he hopes to bring a Major League Soccer team to town. If the former soccer pro were to write a business book, we’re guessing these might be among the takeaways.
1. Never underestimate the power of determination.
“The Blues exemplified it this year,” says Kavanaugh, who invested in the team alongside other locals (including Enterprise chair Andy Taylor) in 2012. Personally, he’s seen the payoff of perseverance. The son of a bricklayer, Kavanaugh earned a soccer scholarship to SLU. He went on to play in the Pan Am Games, on the 1984 Olympic team, and as a pro. In the late ’80s, after hanging up his cleats, he joined forces with David Steward, and they co-founded a company with a rather ambitious name.
2. Set ambitious goals.
Five years ago, under Kavanaugh’s leadership, the St. Louis Scott Gallagher Soccer Club acquired a United Soccer League team, Saint Louis FC. Last fall, the club clinched a playoff spot for the first time. Meanwhile, Kavanaugh has worked tirelessly to bring an MLS team to town. After city voters narrowly rejected an earlier proposal to help fund a soccer stadium, Kavanaugh received an unexpected invitation last spring to meet with Taylor to discuss a new bid, this time with significantly more private financing. Kavanaugh says he was “incredibly, brutally honest” with Taylor about the potential challenges. Undeterred, Taylor and his family pressed forward, forming the MLS4TheLou ownership group alongside Kavanaugh.
3. Know your values.
If MLS4TheLou wins its bid for an expansion team, it would be the league’s first majority women-led club. Kavanaugh is thrilled at the prospect: “It creates a better community and world.” Likewise, putting people from all walks of life in positions to succeed is a cornerstone at World Wide Technology, the nation’s largest African-American–owned business and a constant presence on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.