How Rajon Rondo’s Big Brother Became the NBA’s Go-To Concierge
On its face, it sounds ridiculous to go to that much trouble to fulfill such a frivolous request. But that’s the nature of the business. “What [athletes] don’t realize is the sheer exhaustion that they can cause people because the demands are so high,” Gross says. “It’s 24/7.”
Rondo’s business basically works like this: When a client contacts him, he first consults his database, where he lists his customers’ various preferences. What types of cars they like, if they have a preferred driver, where their favorite pickup spot is, who their relevant family members are, when it’s anybody’s birthday, and what types of snacks they like in the limo. To keep one client happy, SGT ships a hard-to-find brand of chips to car services all across the country, ensuring that he has them no matter what city he’s in. (“If the bag’s close to being expired, we’re not going to put it in the vehicle,” says one of Rondo’s employees.)
The next step is to subcontract the ride. Because he doesn’t have any vehicles of his own, Rondo has pre-negotiated rates with limo companies in pretty much every big city in the country. (No overhead is, of course, a good thing for a fledgling business, though without his own vehicles, Rondo’s profit margins are smaller. It’s essentially a less-risk, less-reward strategy.)
For some of those limo companies, Rondo’s clients account for enough of their business to give him considerable sway. Before striking out on his own, Rondo earned his stripes by working for Jerald Robbins, the president of Weldon Worldwide Services, a local limo company. When they parted ways, they made a deal: Rondo would get Robbins’s contacts in exchange for subcontracting rides to him. Now, Robbins says, Rondo’s clients make up about 10 percent of Weldon’s business. As a result, Robbins makes sure to always hold cars in reserve on game nights in case they’re needed at the Garden. To accommodate all the athletes (and their very large bodies) that Rondo has brought to him, Robbins added three new SUV limos to his now 28-car fleet. Rondo also gives him pointers on how to stay attuned to the creature comforts players prefer. “High bass, lots of speakers, a lot of high-end stuff,” Robbins says. He adds that he just bought a 14-passenger mini coach that the players frequently use. Robbins, the type of guy you’d more expect to find kibitzing in a deli than thumping bass in a car, is especially proud of the new ride’s “really kick-ass stereo system.”
Most of Rondo’s business right now happens in Boston, New York, Miami, Chicago, and Los Angeles, where many of his entertainment clients are located. Out in L.A., Alex Ghorbani, the CEO of LAX VIP Limousine Service, says Rondo accounts for about 10 percent of his business, or about $8,000 to $10,000 per month on 40 to 55 trips. Ghorbani recently bought another Escalade limo to help accommodate the customers Rondo directs to him. (In case you were wondering, Ghorbani offers this breakdown of limo-service divas: “Athletes are not that bad. The movie industry is worse. The people in the music industry are not that bad because they are always high or drunk…. It makes it easier, but it makes the car so filthy.”)
Rondo says he arranges 12 to 25 rides per day, and has had few instances where a client has gotten out of control in the car. If necessary, he says, he’d cut ties with a big troublemaker. After all, the whole enterprise rests on people trusting him — from the limo operators, club managers, and restaurant owners to the professional basketball players, rappers, and high-powered professors. At the end of the day, what differentiates Will Rondo’s business is Will Rondo. That means everything reflects on him.