Kenny Dichter has said that the University of Wisconsin provided the foundation for many of the major components of his life. The Madison campus was where he met lifelong friends. It was where he began his business career. And it was where he met his wife.
Now, 20 years later, Dichter, his close friend Todd Deutsch and a number of their fellow Badger alums are helping to lay the foundation for the future of Wisconsin football.
Fans entering the north end of Camp Randall Stadium will notice a sign on the outside that reads: Dichter-Deutsch Conference Center. Inside the stadium and the McClain Center is a brand new, state-of-the-art, 18,000-square-foot complex featuring 11 classroom-style meeting rooms. Among those rooms are two team auditoriums and six position rooms. In addition, there is a first-rate video facility where editing is done, along with a Big Ten Network studio.
The project, which was led by Dichter and Deutsch, cost approximately $2.2 million and was funded by the following individuals, whose names appear on the outside of the rooms in the complex.
Team Auditorium: Kenny Dichter and Todd Deutsch
Technology Center: Andrew Boszhardt
Defensive Team Auditorium: Ricky Sandler and Chet Burros
Running Backs Meeting Room: Craig Ross
Defensive Line Meeting Room: Sam Frankfort
Offensive Line Meeting Room: Brian Fisher and Kevin Fisher
Defensive Backs: Jay Peters
Tight Ends Meeting Room: Joshua Tarnow
Media Room: Oliver Wiener
Quarterbacks Meeting Room: Robert Crespi
Big Ten Studio Room: David Hammond
Pro Scouts Room: Bobby Miller
Media Room Kitchen: Oren Hartman
Elevator Lobby Area: Brian Lattman
Kenny and Todd have become great friends, Badger head coach Bret Bielema said. Theyve both become successful in their chosen fields and our entire program is grateful for their desire to give back to Wisconsin athletics. Their passion for the Badgers is incredible.
That passion began once the two Long Island, N.Y., natives arrived in Madison. Dichter and Deutsch traveled west to Wisconsin at different times (Dichter graduated in 1990, the same year Deutsch enrolled as a freshman), but they formed a lasting friendship and discovered that among the things they had in common was a love for the Badgers.
We met in Madison, probably playing basketball in the SERF, when I was a senior, Dichter says. We were in the same fraternity and we were both from Long Island. Todd became like a little brother to me. At school I mentored him and watched out for him. Hes one of the closest friends I have.
Dichters entrepreneurial career started in college, where he began an on-campus retail specialty store called Buckys. He later worked closely with then Chancellor Donna Shalala and officials in the UW Department of Athletics to create Late Night with the Badgers, a pep rally hosted by Dick Vitale.
I always wanted to be involved in a direct way to help Wisconsin sports be on the cutting edge, says Dichter, the CEO and founder of Marquis Jet, which sells access to NetJets in 25-hour Marquis Jet Cards and has fast become one of the most notable private aviation brands in the world. Previously, Dichter co-founded Alphabet City, a production and distribution company specializing in sports compilation CDs that combined popular in-arena music with memorable play-by-play calls from team history.
I owe a lot of the success of Marquis to some of the marketing activities I did as a student at Wisconsin, Dichter says. In fact, he tied Marquis Jet and the UW together this past summer when he brought his company sales meeting to Camp Randall. The Marquis Jet employees enjoyed their own company Olympics and heard from Bielema and Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez.
Deutsch, a 1994 UW-Madison graduate, worked as a trader for Goldman Sachs in the late 1990s before becoming a managing director and trader with JLF Asset Management, a $1 billion hedge fund. Most recently, Deutsch was managing director with the Galleon Group, serving as the head trader with its $1.3 billion healthcare fund. He rose to the level of partner by April of 2006, but its clear his heart remains in Madison.
I had a few friends that went (to UW), Deutsch said. I came out to Madison and fell in love with it. The weather was beautiful, it was April. It just seemed like a place where you could build friendships and memories for the rest of your life. It (attending UW) was the best decision I ever made. Its a place I always come back to and, the minute we land, I feel relaxed and at home.
Deutsch is particularly grateful for the friend he made in Dichter. Kenny was a good basketball player and we had some mutual friends that knew each other, Deutsch says. Kenny and I liked to have a good time and enjoy our food, especially brats in Wisconsin. We just kind of hit it off. To this day, I dont make an important move without turning to Kenny.
When Alvarez called Dichter about possibly leading an effort to upgrade football meeting and office space in Camp Randall Stadium, Dichter called Deutsch and the project was off and running. The two friends enlisted, according to Dichter, the help and support of more than a dozen guys we knew through the Badger bloodlines and the group accomplished what they set out to do.
Kenny and Todd have been very active young alumni, continually supportive of the University, particularly the Athletic Department, Alvarez said. They are both successful businessmen in their own right; Kenny being the founder of Marquis Jet, and Todd is a very successful hedge fund trader. Im very appreciative of the leadership roles they took with the upgrades we made at Camp Randall.
Its easy to hear the sense of satisfaction in Dichters voice.
It was a dynamic group of people that got behind the project, Dichter says. There is a great source of pride for all the guys that were involved.
For two of the guys in particular, the Dichter-Deutsch Conference Center also signifies a strong love of UW football, a close-knit friendship and a prime example of what it means to give something back.