Photo: Paul Sancya/AP
By Adam Lashinsky
October 31, 2013

The Oakland Athletics came up short again this year, losing in the divisional playoffs to the Detroit Tigers. That extends the championship drought for famed general manager Billy Beane, celebrated for eternity in the book by Michael Lewis (and played onscreen by Brad Pitt!) that described his data-driven approach to baseball.

Inside the corporate boardroom, however, Beane has been putting some serious wood on the ball. In 2007 the baseball executive joined the board of NetSuite, a Silicon Valley software company founded by billionaire Larry Ellison that builds products for salespeople at small businesses. Beane’s long tenure on the board and NetSuite’s explosive stock performance — shares have nearly doubled in a year — have reaped him some significant gains. His current NetSuite equity holdings, profits from stock sales, and cumulative director’s compensation total nearly $4 million, according to an analysis by Equilar.

Beane declined to comment on his corporate good fortune. But NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson positively gushes about the contribution Beane makes to the board. “I view our customers as the Oakland As, the small-market team competing against the Fortune 500,” says Nelson, who credits Beane with helping him better understand Netsuite’s users as well getting the CEO interested in baseball. He says Beane, of all people, has taught him the importance of instincts. “I said, Billy, your system is published in a book. Why doesn’t anyone replicate your success?’ He said, ‘You can have the framework and the data, and you still need to make the decisions. Even when you have all the facts, you still have to have the guts to make the call.’ ”

As for data, Nelson also picks up technology tips from his baseball man. Beane, says Nelson, showed up at a recent board meeting with an As-designed iPhone app that tracks player performance. “Now I’m trying to figure out why we can’t track our sales team in a similar way.”

A shorter version of this story appeared in the November 18, 2013 issue of Fortune.

You May Like

EDIT POST