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Tiki Barber thriving with sports business venture Thuzio

Tiki Barber arrives at The Fresh Air Fund

Tiki Barber arrives at The Fresh Air Fund Spring Gala Benefit at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers on Thursday, May 29, 2014. Credit: AP / Scott Roth

Tiki Barber has endured a series of personal and professional setbacks since retiring from the Giants after the 2006 season, but at 39, he appears to have landed on his feet.

His media career still is alive as a host of the national morning show on CBS Radio -- which is based in New York but not yet heard in New York -- and his company, Thuzio, is thriving, having recently raised a fresh $6 million from investors and increased its visibility with ads on CBS-owned WFAN.

Two-year-old Thuzio, for which Barber is co-chairman and founder along with Mark Gerson, books an assortment of appearances for an assortment of athletes -- most often for corporate events that value well-known athletes.

"We quickly saw 65 or 70 percent of our bookings were coming from corporate America," he said last week at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit. "They're doing events all the time and we were a transparent way to add talent. So our focus over the last two quarters has been corporate America and expanding products."

That includes organizing events. Recent ones have featured Barber's long-ago teammate Michael Strahan, Roger Clemens and Bobby Valentine with his father-in-law, Ralph Branca.

"It is a crowded space," he said, but Thuzio has developed a niche "because we are hitting places that the typical agent just doesn't hit because it's not worth it to him to go book a $2,000 event, or a $5,000 event . . . We want scale by number of transactions. You can't scale by having to negotiate every single time you're engaging with a guy.

"So we find things they actually want to do and are easy for them to fulfill because it's local, and you can just clip them off, one at a time . . . A sales activation team needs a way to bring in new clients, bring in a high-profile athlete that you know those clients are going to have an affinity to."

Barber said a good example is former NBA star Tim Hardaway, who reached out to the company for guidance.

"He was one of the early adopters to our platform," Barber said. "He does all kinds of things, like boat shows and pickup basketball games for corporations doing things outside the office. He just likes it. And he's making a significant amount of money doing these things on an ad-hoc basis."

Barber said most of his time is occupied by the radio show and Thuzio. He wakes up at his home near the Jets' practice facility in Florham Park, New Jersey, at around 4 a.m., then heads to Manhattan to join fellow hosts Dana Jacobson and Brandon Tierney.

Barber said he is unbothered by the fact WFAN's local morning show featuring Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton is simulcast nationally on CBS Sports Network rather than his national morning radio show. "We're a radio show, and we like being a radio show," he said.

What he is bothered by is the fact the radio show is not heard in the metropolitan area.

"The only thing that we want is to be in New York," he said. "It's an oxymoron. We're a national show but we're not in the biggest market."

CBS Radio had been expected to use the 660 AM signal for national programming after WFAN also took over the 101.9 FM signal, but that still has not happened. WFAN is heard on both outlets.

"I think it's because no one is moving [to FM for WFAN]," Barber said. "I haven't moved yet. I should be at 101.9 but I turn on 660 when I listen to it."

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