What You Don't Know About Dave Portnoy

Dave Portnoy is a controversial figure. Some view him as an arrogant narcissist who belittles others and adds fuel to the raging bro culture fire (via NBC News). Others hold Portnoy in high esteem for his business acumen, entrepreneurial spirit, and unfiltered way of talking (per Valiant CEO). Despite the fact that Portnoy is the media landscape's marmite — you either love him or hate him — there are a few people who can see both sides of the Portnoy coin.

Among these people, the common consensus seems to be that public opinion of Portnoy will forever remain divided. However, there is one fact that nearly all can agree on: In Barstool Sports, Portnoy and CEO Erika Nardini have built a multifaceted empire that long ago branched out from its origins in sports and betting (via Forbes). One area that the brand is heavily leaning into is food, namely pizza. Portnoy is something of a self-proclaimed expert in this area, and his love for pies has become increasingly apparent through his famous review videos and Barstool Sports' gastronomically minded business aspirations. But combining all your loves — sports, betting, and food — in one business empire is not an easy feat, especially when you have Portnoy's level of notoriety.

He founded Barstool Sports

Having worked at the Yankee Group — a technology research and consulting firm — for a number of years post college, Dave Portnoy set out on his own, founding Barstool Sports in 2003 (via Valiant CEO). Portnoy's goal for Barstool Sports was to provide analysis for sports betting, one of his lifelong passions (per Fox Business). Initially, Barstool Sports was a print publication, as Portnoy explained to Forbes. "Barstool has been a very grassroots company from day one," he said. "I started handing out newspapers outside subway stations in Boston, and we've gained every reader by word of mouth."

Barstool Sports went digital in 2007 (per the Daily Mail) and has grown rapidly since. In 2016, the Chernin Group bought a majority stake in Barstool Sports (via Recode), whilst another large stake was purchased by Penn National Gaming in 2020 (per The Wall Street Journal). These investments notwithstanding, Barstool Sports has steadily moved away from being a betting-specific site and has gradually adopted more of a lifestyle focus with a target audience of young men. This is reflected not only in the content published by Barstool Sports but also in its tone, which is casual, masculine, and often offensive (via The Boston Globe). Whilst decidedly lewd and crude, Barstool Sports is popular — it averages around 8 million unique viewers per month (via Forbes) — and is home for some of the internet's most popular podcasts, such as "Pardon My Take" and "Spittin Chiclets" (via iTunes Charts).

His persona El Presidente is a staple of bro culture

Key to the rapid and continued success of Barstool Sports is Dave Portnoy's persona, El Presidente. Not only does Portnoy write under this pseudonym, but he also uses it to deflect the majority of criticism aimed his way by stating that crude or offensive comments are all part of an act (via The Boston Globe). And it is this act — if you want to call it that — that has been the driving force behind Barstool Sports' continued growth. El Presidente's writing and rambling speeches on topics from sports to pizza has built an organic community of invested, returning readers who respect Portnoy's opinion and find his comedy entertaining (via The New York Times).

It is an undisputed fact that Barstool Sports' readership is built up of so-called bros — a subset of young men associated with fraternities, partying, and an old-school type of masculinity (via NPR). Rather than distance himself from this image, Portnoy has embraced it wholeheartedly, stating to NBC News, "When we started there weren't any other 'bro blogs.' It was just us. Now there's so many people doing what we do."

Dave Portnoy reviews pizza slices

One of the more wholesome aspects of Dave Portnoy's media career are his near daily pizza reviews. Released on YouTube from the account One Bite Pizza Reviews, Portnoy travels the United States rating slices from any and all pizzerias. Speaking to Men's Journal, Portnoy explained how it all started: "I was living in Boston and it was a contest with myself and Big Cat [Dan Katz] and we were arguing: If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be? He said tacos. I said pizza. Then we went a couple weeks and that's all we ate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I started rating the pizza and people just loved it. I started in Boston and then I moved to New York a couple of years ago."

The videos are extremely popular and have featured a number of celebrities, such as Matthew McConaughey and Guy Fieri. Despite having no notable culinary background, Portnoy's opinion carries some clout — both Local 4 and Fox 4 Now have reported on the massive increase in popularity seen at some pizzerias after being reviewed by Portnoy. Of course, the opposite can also be true. After an altercation with a staff member, Portnoy gave Goodfellas — a pizzeria in Kentucky — a score of 0.0. As reported by the New York Post, fans of Barstool Sports left a multitude of poor reviews, resulting in an extremely damaging drop in online ratings for Goodfellas. 

He launched a pizza-centric app

Dave Portnoy's love for pizza matches his love for empire building, so it was only a matter of time until he combined the two. This pizza-based business venture took the form of an app called One Bite. As with many of Portnoy's ventures, One Bite is multifaceted. The app allows you to view all of Portnoy's online pizza reviews, find nearby pizzerias, order from them, and consequently pen your own review. Ever keen to monetize, the app also features links to buy a range of One Bite-themed merchandise.

The app has proved a hit, with Digiday reporting over 175,000 downloads in the first month of it being live. Pizza is ordered and delivered in partnership with Slice, an online ordering platform exclusively for independent pizzerias (via CNBC). Speaking to Front Office Sports about the partnership, Ilir Sela — the founder of Slice — said, "With One Bite, we admire their ability to create engaging content that resonates with an insanely loyal and growing following. And Dave Portnoy, in particular, has a great ability to create content that is always authentic."

He has collaborated with Happi Foodi to produce frozen pizzas

A pizza-centric app, pizza themed merchandise, and a multitude of viral pizza reviewing videos were evidently not enough to sate Dave Portnoy's hunger for the Italian doughy delight — the man behind each of these ventures has now moved into the food production business. Unsurprisingly, his focus is on pizzas, of which there are four frozen variants. All have been launched in Walmart (per Yahoo Finance).

The pizzas themselves have received mixed reviews, with Delishably bemoaning a lack of flavor and even Barstool Sports fans posting critical comments. Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, Portnoy used his pizza-orientated YouTube account, One Bite Pizza Reviews, to sing the product's praises, giving it an extremely rare and perfect score of 10 (via YouTube). The pizza has been made and distributed in partnership with Happi Foodi, a company that specializes in healthy freezer food (via Happi Foodi). Unfortunately, the One Bite frozen pizzas are anything but healthy — a single pepperoni pizza contains over the recommended daily allowance of both salt and saturated fat (via Walmart).

He has been accused of sexual misconduct

In November 2021, Insider released an article in which two women — whose identities were protected — accused Dave Portnoy of sexual misconduct, including violent and aggressive acts. The same publication released a second article in February 2022, where a further three women leveled accusations of sexual misconduct against Portnoy (via Insider).

Portnoy has denied all allegations and has filed a lawsuit against Insider (via the New York Post). As reported by The Daily Beast, Portnoy is being represented by Andrew Brettler, a very well-known lawyer whose clients have included the likes of Prince Andrew (via the BBC). Speaking to Variety, Brettler explained why he works on such high-profile cases. "I believe strongly in the right to due process in our country, I believe in everyone's right to representation," he said. "I don't think people should be judged by the Twitter mob." Nicholas Carlson, editor-in-chief at Insider, has also got involved, publishing an editor's note on the lawsuit, vowing that the publication will continue to stand by the articles and its journalists throughout the lawsuit.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Dave Portnoy and Barstool Sports have been associated with toxic masculinity

As the president of Barstool Sports, Dave Portnoy maintains total creative control (via Bookies). Whether rightly or wrongly, this often means that the content produced and the tone utilized by Barstool Sports — even in the copy of another writer — is associated directly with Portnoy. The most common conclusion drawn from both the content and tone employed at Barstool Sports is that the company has fostered a uniquely toxic masculine culture — a deduction that Portnoy's character only reinforces (via NBC News).

The bulk of rebuttals used by Portnoy and his brand play on the success of women have had while employed at Barstool Sports. "One of the most popular girls on the Internet, Jenna Marbles, we hired her," he told Forbes. "Katie Nolan, who works for Fox Sports and is one of the most publicized and leading advocates of women in sports, says we were her inspiration [...] she [Marbles] got paid the same as every blogger." The claim that a few women in positions of power balance out Barstool Sports' overtly masculine or sexist content — such as daily, hypersexualized pictures of women — as well as the frequent use of misogynistic language, has been met with scorn by some (via The Daily Beast).

He saved multiple small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic

The Barstool Fund — which Dave Portnoy started with $500,000 of his own money (via Yahoo Finance) — was created with the aim of helping small businesses survive the coronavirus pandemic. After promoting the fund on the full range of both Barstool Sports' and his own platforms, the fund rapidly ballooned, with notable celebrities — including Guy Fieri and Tom Brady — donating and raising awareness (via Maxim). The fund currently stands at nearly $42 million raised, with 443 businesses supported (via Barstool Sports).

The Barstool Fund is only the most recent iteration of Portnoy's philanthropy. Before COVID-19, Barstool Sports raised $50,000 for American Football player J.J. Watt's charity (via UPI), while $150,000 was raised to support the family of murdered police officer Michael Chesna (via Barstool Sports). Portnoy has also revealed that he does not intend for The Barstool Fund to fizzle out once the pandemic is over, saying (via Fox Business), "We've decided to turn The Barstool Fund into a full-time charity. Something that will be existing not only during COVID [...] but [for] decades [...] making positive impacts for entrepreneurs, which I truly believe are the backbone of the United States."

He launched Barstool Bites, a digital eatery

With kitchens standing empty or underutilized for the majority of the coronavirus pandemic, some entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to launch food businesses that required only a fraction of the start-up costs. The rise of these so-called virtual kitchens has been rapid, in part due to the ease with which they can be started. Unlike ghost kitchens — which are units solely dedicated to cooking takeaway food — virtual kitchens pay existing restaurant kitchens and their staff to make delivery food, effectively outsourcing all the work (via The New York Times).

This business model can prove highly profitable, as demonstrated by MrBeast Burger, a virtual fast-food restaurant chain founded by YouTuber Jimmy Donaldson. This chain has experienced tremendous popularity and growth, with backer Robert Earl claiming that an impressive number of burgers have been sold (via Bloomberg). Earl is also backing Barstool Sports' foray into the virtual restaurant industry. Barstool Bites — the name of the virtual restaurant — provides a mixture of fast food, including popcorn and chicken wings (via The Food Institute). The menu has been designed for sports game binging, as Erika Nardini, CEO of Barstool Sports, explained to Bloomberg: "We're going to experiment with giving our fans the ability to order the types of food we eat when we're sitting on our couch watching football on Saturdays and Sundays."

Barstool Sports has launched its own hangover cure

You would be forgiven for thinking that by now, Dave Portnoy and Barstool Sports had exhausted all avenues for culinary related ventures. Yet, the team at Barstool Sports is nothing if not ingenious when it comes to monetizing and merchandising — a fact illustrated by their most recent endeavor, a partnership with beverage makers, Revitalyte.

A company focused on developing rehydration solutions may seem an odd match for a macho sport and lifestyle media empire. However, Revitalyte and Barstool Sports' collaboration makes a lot more sense when you realize the product, Barstool Black Label, is being marketed as a hangover cure (per Pro Sports Extra). Erika Nardini explained why Barstool Sports jumped at the opportunity to produce a drink (via Brew Bound): "The launch of Black Label was a natural progression for our partnership with Revitalyte. Entertaining people on the internet and helping them manage their hangovers felt like something we were uniquely equipped to do."

Dave Portnoy is trying to merge sports news and betting

The initial driving force behind Barstool Sports was Dave Portnoy's passion for sports betting and the gap in the market he saw (per the Daily Mail). Fast forward to the present day, and betting is no longer as integral to Barstool Sports' identity as it once was. But with Penn National Gaming — a betting and casino operator — purchasing a large share of Barstool Sports in 2020 (via US Bets), the focus is somewhat turning back to sports betting.

However, Portnoy and Barstool Sports are not just looking to contribute to the United States' budding gambling industry but rather to change it completely. As reported by Fox Business, Barstool Sports is utilizing its immense platforms to intertwine sports betting with both sports news and live coverage. Portnoy and his team have also launched a betting app, Barstool Sportsbook, for use in Pennsylvania. There was $11 million worth of wagers placed through the app on its very first weekend, showcasing the immense possibilities of Barstool-branded betting ventures (via Legal Sports Report).

He invests in both stocks and cryptocurrency

Dave Portnoy is a lover of all things gambling, as the origin story of Barstool Sports makes clear. During lockdowns and quarantine, Portnoy realized that his wagers need not be limited to the court and gridiron. The stock market grabbed Portnoy's attention at this time, and with little else to do, he took up day trading (via Insider). Portnoy met with mixed success and was quick to state that he was trading for fun and not financial gain. Other established traders have somewhat resented his entry into the markets, blaming Portnoy and others like him for increased market volatility (via The New York Times).

Since lockdowns ended, Portnoy has found another field to invest in: cryptocurrency. With 29 bitcoins to his name (via Fox Business), Portnoy is not playing around. He did, however, receive some ridicule when it was disclosed he had invested $40,000 in a relatively unknown cryptocurrency, SafeMoon. The reasons for this investment seem shaky at best. Portnoy has been recorded as stating (via MarketWatch): "The events of the last couple days and weeks have made me think: I have to get involved in something beyond bitcoin. I see what Elon does. He's pulling levers, so one day doge[coin] is good next it's bad: bitcoin good, bitcoin bad [...] It's time for me to choose a side and I have done that."