Ndamukong Suh, the defensive tackle on the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins and former star at the University of Nebraska, joined the board of a publicly traded company with the blessing of one of the college’s most famous fans, billionaire Warren Buffett.
Suh, 29, was named a director at Ballantyne Strong Inc., which manufactures projection screens, monitors networked equipment and has clients in the cinema, retail and financial industries, according to a statement Tuesday from the company, which is based in Omaha, Buffett’s hometown. The company cited his leadership ability, and Suh said in the statement that “this is a great responsibility that I do not take lightly.”
Buffett has befriended a number of professional athletes including basketball player LeBron James and Bob Gibson, the Omaha native and former pitcher who is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The 85-year-old billionaire had an arm-wrestling match against the 320 pound (145 kilogram) Suh on CNBC and has been seen on the Dolphins sidelines wearing a Suh jersey, according to ESPN.
“I once said that I was glad he’s not running against me for a board spot. I meant it,” Buffett said in Tuesday’s statement about Suh’s appointment to Ballantyne Strong’s board. “I believe that Ndamukong has a bright future as a businessman and I look forward to hearing about his many successes.”
Ballantyne Strong climbed 5.9 percent to $4.51 at 12:41 p.m. in New York, the biggest increase since August. The company has advanced about 4.6 percent over the past year.
Chairman Kyle Cerminara said he’s worked with Suh through a venture called Fundamental Global Investors. One of Cerminara’s co-founders there is Joe Moglia, who is also chairman of Omaha- based TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., football coach at Coastal Carolina University and previously an adviser at Nebraska’s team.
“We’ve known Ndamukong for a long time at Fundamental Global and at Ballantyne Strong,” Cerminara said in a phone interview. “He’s certainly well known as a football player, but we’ve come to know him perhaps even better as a really intelligent businessman, and we’ve been working with him on a number of different business deals over the years.”
Suh has been an investor and partner in some real estate and aviation projects and founded the Ndamukong Suh Family Foundation, which funds education, health, and nutrition initiatives, according to the statement. He graduated from Nebraska in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering, focused on construction management, Ballantyne Strong said. Cerminara didn’t immediately provide specifics on business deals involving Suh.
The chairman said he knew Suh before meeting Buffett, and was pleased that the football player had the support of the Berkshire Hathaway Inc. leader and also Stephen Ross, who is the founder of the real estate developer Related Cos. and the owner of the Dolphins.
Suh “brings a whole unique perspective to the board,” Cerminara said, “certainly one that has been endorsed by a number of large business executives.”