New Greek TV's featured Greek of the Week is StubHub president Chris Tsakalakis.
The second generation Greek-American, who was included in Billboard's "Power 100" lists in 2012 and 2013, grew up in suburban Chicago, "My parents moved to the Windy City when they immigrated to the U.S. in 1967". Tsakalakis' mother and father were born in Naxos and Samos, respectively, but spent most of their lives in Athens, prior to moving to the United States.
Tsakalakis describes his early days, "When I was growing up my neighborhood friends called my brothers and me 'the Greek kids'. When we went to Greece, we were the 'Amerikanakia'. I often felt like I didn't belong when I was a kid and there was a time that I resented my Greek heritage. As an adult, however, I realized that my upbringing in the dual Greek and American cultures made me better rounded and able to take on challenges. Learning a third language was pretty easy. Living in Europe and working in developing countries was easier for me than my American colleagues because of the time I spent visiting Greece as a kid".
Tsakalakis was named as one of the 50 most influential people in the sports business by Sports Business Journal in 2011 and 2012, while the Huffington Post included him on its "Sports Game Changer" lists in 2010 and 2011. San Francisco has been his place of residence since 1996, where he reigns as president of StubHub, the most powerful secondary ticketing enterprise in America.
The University of Pennsylvania graduate initially worked as a management consultant in Boston at Bain & Company. Describing his early career, the father of two recounts, "After 3 years there, I had my Greek/EU passport and went to the London office to work on privatization in Poland and Russia before working in the UK. In 1996, when I told my London friends that I wanted to work in the Internet industry, they said 'oh, the Internet, I need to check that out'. So I moved to San Francisco where the Internet was young but everywhere and got hired to run a little startup doing online charity auctions. When that business failed, I worked as a consultant for a lot of different Internet startups before finally getting to eBay in 2003. After 4 years running eBay Stores and other teams within the US eBay business, I was asked to run StubHub when eBay acquired the company in 2007".
Tsakalakis' role at StubHub was pivotal, regarding its transformation into the largest global ticketing marketplace. He states, "I've influenced StubHub's success by focusing on constantly improving customer satisfaction. We track satisfaction on a regular basis and it is one of the 3 main metrics I use (along with employee engagement and financial performance) to drive the business".
The successful businessman adds, "We've used customer feedback to grow electronic delivery of tickets from 0 to 75% and mobile from 0 to nearly 20% of our business. We've also expanded internationally and launched the ticketing industry's first and only loyalty program (Fan Rewards). Because of those changes and a lot of others, we've doubled buyer satisfaction to the point that we beat every other ticketing company year after year".
The company, that has more than 16 million users per month, has forever altered ticketing sales and fan's access to events. The Greek-American discloses, "For sellers, StubHub means never having to be stuck with a ticket when your plans change and having a way to pay for your season tickets when you cannot attend every game. For fans buying tickets, StubHub has made it possible to have access and choice to any event. Access means being able to get into the event and choice means picking where you want to sit and how much you want to pay. We regularly get tweets from our customers thanking us for enabling them to attend the events of their dreams".
However, the company has been met with controversy. Tsakalakis comments on how he deals with, "I handle controversy with facts and logic. There are many myths in the ticket resale business and I spend a lot of my time dispelling them with facts. Reselling tickets is not viewed favorably by everyone largely because of incorrect information. Many believe it is illegal in the U.S. to resell a ticket at any price. That's wrong. Many think it is illegal to sell a ticket above face value. That's not true in all but 5 states. Many think every ticket on StubHub is sold for above face value. That's also false as about half of our tickets are sold at or below face value. Many people think we, StubHub, buy tickets and then resell them. That's not true. The tickets for sale on StubHub are owned by independent sellers who buy tickets from the box office and then set prices they choose based on market demand".
StubHub offers philanthropic initiatives for the community at large, including "The Rising Stars Program". Tsakalakis explains, "To the best of my knowledge, we are the only ticketing company that has a foundation specifically set up to benefit children, the fans of tomorrow, by funding sports, music and other arts programs for kids. The Rising Stars program does just that".
Tsakalakis plans to take StubHub to the international arena, "We are already serving fans with tickets to events in Canada and the United Kingdom and we will be expanding in Europe very soon. It may be a while, however, before we get to Greece".
Tsakalakis' ethnicity has played a large role in his identity, "I grew up going to a Greek Orthodox parochial school, speaking Greek at home and being dragged to Greek baptisms, weddings and dinner dances. I learned all of my good (and bad) habits from my very Greek parents so it's hard for me to get away from being Greek".
The majority of Tsakalakis' spare time is spent with his wife and sons, "...watching them play sports and acting as chief photographer and home fix it man". He regularly travels to the homeland and spent one month in Greece last year during his second sabbatical, "I try to take my family to Greece every other year".
When asked about his favorite place in Greece, Tsakalakis reveals, "I would have to say the little patch of beach behind my parents' house in Samos. It's not fancy but it makes me feel like I'm at home. After staying in upscale hotels in Crete, Naxos and Athens my boys kept saying 'this isn't as nice as Samos' and I had to agree". The leading Greek-American businessman attributes his Hellenism to much of his success, "My perspective on business is broader and I can relate better to the first and second generation immigrants working at StubHub because of my Greek-American upbringing".