Bill de Blasio may be the official Mayor of New York City, but he isn’t the only one who wears that title in the city that never sleeps.
Jeffrey Appel is commonly and appropriately referred to as the “Mayor of New York Tennis” because of the relationships and connections he makes and develops between the business and finance world, and the global tennis community.
“I’ve been called worse things in my life,” Appel said with a laugh. “The origin of that nickname comes from Whitney Kraft, director of tennis at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. “We used to play and organize an open level doubles league which we called ‘Smash Night Wednesdays’. It was by invitation only and was for former tour players and Division I level players. We did this on Wednesdays for a few years together and Whitney started referring to me as the ‘Mayor of New York City,’ and it just stuck.”
Appel, a senior managing director at Broadband Capital, has been one of the most influential tennis figures in New York City for some time now. He has been instrumental in helping many college and professional tennis players’ transition into careers on a different playing surface: the business world.
“In addition to his obvious success as a financier, Jeff is passionate about tennis and understands that tennis is a vehicle for learning values and skills,” said Martin Blackman, the head of USTA Player Development. “As a former coach I understand the concept of mentoring. Jeff has been a tremendous mentor for our American pros, men and women coming off the Tour and looking to enter the world of finance. He’s spent countless hours talking to them and connecting them with educational and internship/job opportunities. Jeff’s support of American players, current and former, makes our sport stronger and gives all of our players an example of what it means to give back.”
Brendan Evans, who reached a career high singles ranking of 116th in the world when he played on the pro tour, added:
“I believe that he has furthered the game of tennis in New York by holding events that increase awareness of the sport, while raising money for important causes. At the same time, Jeff has helped tennis players navigate through difficult barriers to transition into careers outside of tennis.”
Evans is now an investment banking analyst at Goldman Sachs.
One of those events was the first annual Finance Cup, which Appel organized and captained along with David Anving, a London-based portfolio manager and former Captain of the University of Michigan Tennis team. The Finance Cup brought together some of the biggest names in the finance industry and some former professional tennis players who have moved on to work in the world of finance. Appel’s Team Wall Street beat Team Europe eight matches to one.
Jeff Appel, ESPN Tennis Analyst Brad Gilbert and Bill Ackman at last year's Finance Cup
In addition, Appel has spent a lot of his time helping other tennis initiatives throughout New York City.
“Jeff is an energetic and very competitive person on and off the tennis court,” said Katrina Adams, Chairman, President and CEO of the USTA. “He has been instrumental in supporting my National Junior Tennis & Learning [NJTL] and the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program [HJTEP] by speaking with and placing alumni into the business stream.”
Appel was the USTA’s guest at last summer’s U.S. Open final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, where he sat in the President’s Suite in front of actors Bradley Cooper and Sean Connery.
At last year's U.S. Open final, Jeff Appel sat in front of actors Bradley Cooper and Sean Connery in the USTA President's Box
“I grew up in a tennis-centric town,” recalls Appel, a native of Great Neck, N.Y. “At a very young age, I started playing, and at the age of 11, I started to fully focus on tennis as my only competitive sport. I played Jimmy Arias in the USTA Eastern 12 and under Clay Court Championships and that was a humbling experience. Arias went on to become number five in the world. I think I’m one of the few people from my era in USTA Eastern that still plays consistently.”
And Appel’s playing career is still in full swing. He was most recently ranked number one in the USTA Eastern’s 45+ Division and was ranked 12th nationally. With Jeff as captain the USTA Eastern team out of New York Athletic Club has won five National Open Championships in the last six years.
His teams have been loaded with ATP ranked talent including: Sam Groth, Amer Delic, Brendan Evans, Stephen Bass, Cory Parr, Todd Paul, Kaes Van’t Hof, Jason Jung, Adam El Mihdawy, Ludovic Walter, Nathan Healey and Alex Bogomolov. Most of whom he severs as a mentor and or has helped with their transition to life after tennis.
Jeff Appel captained the USTA Eastern team to five national championships in the last six years
“Jeff has been a very good friend and a mentor as I have transitioned from professional tennis into the world of finance,” said Amer Delic, who was ranked as high as 60th in the world during his playing days and retired from the ATP Tour in 2012.
Another fond memory of Appel’s came recently this past spring, when he and pal Bill Ackman, founder of Pershing Square Capital Management, flew to Paris to sit courtside as the guest of American phenom Frances Tiafoe to watch him in the main draw of his first French Open.
Appel knows Tiafoe through his work with the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC), and introduced Ackman to Tiafoe in 2013, and the two have been tremendous supporters of Tiafoe since.
Jeff Appel (right) with American Frances Tiafoe (left) as he made his 2015 French Open debut
“Jeff is widely known as the ‘Mayor of New York Tennis.’ Less well-known is that he has placed more young talented players in finance careers than any man alive,” said Ackman. “Finding a man a job is one of the most significant things you can do for someone else. Just as important, Jeff’s placement services come gratis. He does it for his love of the game and to help his fellow man.”
Ackman concluded: “I am renaming him ‘The Saint of New York Tennis.’”
Helping others is something that Appel takes great pride in, and he knows what he is doing is benefitting many.
“It would be great for everyone, including highly-talented people, to have a ‘caring big brother’ or somebody who can give them guidance because sometimes, parents and coaches don’t see things objectively as they often have their own agenda,” said Appel. “I look back at the beginning of my own career and definitely would have liked to have done some things a little differently. I know from personal experience that tennis players have spent so much time and have sacrificed so much for the sport, that sometimes they are not as focused on the next step in life. A little guidance or a couple of introductions can go a long way in helping them.”
It isn’t just former tennis players that have benefitted from Jeff’s assistance. He helps many college athletes who are currently playing begin that next step of life.
“I credit Jeff with providing me the connection to my summer internship which will become my full-time job upon graduation,” said Trey Strobel, a senior on the Stanford’s Men’s Tennis team. “In a world where a connection with others is one of the greatest assets, Jeff is king.”
Strobel will be an investment banking analyst at Lazard.
Brandon Coupe, associate head coach at Stanford, echoed the sentiments of his player.
“I was lucky to have met Jeff eight years ago when I started coaching college tennis,” said Coupe. “In my opinion, he is one of the most caring and helpful collegiate tennis alums I know. His track record in helping college tennis players transition into the professional field speaks for itself.”
Dayna Lord, a junior on Brown University’s Women’s Tennis team, has also been helped by Appel.
“I met Jeff at a tennis event a few months ago, and within two minutes of meeting him, he believed in my skills and abilities, and wanted to help me find an internship,” said Lord. “Once under his wing, I had an unwavering supportive and highly intelligent resource at hand, with the ability to provide me with friends and connections within the tennis community. Without him, I would not have had my internship opportunity.”
Lord will be an analyst in the Sales & Trading Division of Goldman Sachs this summer.
Appel’s work is a prime example of how tennis can be a springboard for many young adults trying to navigate the post-graduate workforce.
“He has enormous respect for the challenges and relationship between being in the tennis and business arena,” said Brian Boland, head coach of men’s tennis at the University of Virginia. “If you are a former tennis player with aspirations to transition into business, Jeff is a tremendous resource. He possesses an incredible level of knowledge, persistence and enthusiasm to help those he believes in.”
One of Boland’s top players, Captain Mac Styslinger, who just won the doubles title at the ITA All-American Championships, spent this past summer with Appel and his crew in New York. He will be joining Fidus Partners in June when he graduates and a spot has already been reserved for him on Appel's Finance Cup Team and USTA Eastern National Team.
While he is extremely busy with his position at Broadband Capital, he knows how beneficial meeting people through tennis can be and how valuable tennis relationships are.
“New York City is the financial capital of the world,” Appel said. “The range of people is so dynamic, and tennis can be a great way to meet very interesting and successful people. Being an accomplished tennis player can open doors in life that may not normally be open.”
Jeff Appel (center) competing at a recent NYC charity event with Bryan Koniecko (left), former ATP-ranked player and Brown coach, and Pablo Salame (right), co-head of global securities at Goldman Sachs
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org