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It wasn’t all that long ago that Scott “Scooter” Braun, the man who would introduce Justin Bieber to the world, hung his reputation on little more than being a successful party promoter in Atlanta. Today, the 32-year-old Greenwich, Conn., native is the owner of SB Projects, managing more than 10 music artists, producing movies and investing in tech companies on the rise.
As Bieber’s manager and business partner, Braun’s story has also become legend: from college dropout to So So Def Records marketing exec to rapper Asher Roth‘s manager, at which point, he stumbled upon a YouTube clip of a talented kid from Canada with all the potential in the world.
Thanks to the astronomical success of Bieber — “He’s the most Googled person on earth for four years straight,” Braun tells THR in a new cover story — Braun, too, is often thrown into the spotlight and has himself amassed a substantial 3.3 million Twitter followers. Indeed, a lot has been written about the mogul-in-training, but THR dug up these 10 lesser-known nuggets.
1. He hails from a multicultural family. Braun has two brothers who were adopted from Africa, in addition to a biological brother and sister — the former, the founder of nonprofit Pencils of Promise, the latter attending medical school in Israel. His parents met in Budapest, Hungary, after World War II, dad Ervin Braun the son of Holocaust survivors who both spent time in concentration camps. The emotional attachment to his family’s story prompted Braun to produce a 10-minute film called The Hungarian Conflict while still in elementary school. His grandmother sent it to Steven Spielberg, who wrote Braun a letter in response, which now hangs framed in Braun’s Hollywood Hills home.
2. He’s seen anti-semitism up close. Braun’s first fist-fight as a kid came after being called an anti-semitic slur, but even as recently as 2011, he experienced prejudice firsthand. Says Braun: “When we went to Israel in 2011 [during Justin Bieber’s world tour], I was warned not to go because there was real death threats that the Jew manager will die if I bring him.”
3. Here’s how Scott Braun got his nickname … It started at a first-grade birthday party, when a hired balloon animal entertainer anointed him Scooter. “I hated it, and my brother found out that I hated it and kept calling me Scooter.” Later, while playing basketball in high school, brother Adam again nudged his sibling, egging on friends in the bleachers to chant, “Scooo-ter.” The name stuck, so much so that, as class president, Braun would be introduced as Scott “Scooter” Braun. Who still calls him Scott? “My mom and family members,” says Braun. “Pretty much everyone else calls me Scooter.”
4. He could have been a reality star. Pre-Bieber, while still a party promoter at Emory University in Atlanta, Braun could have been a reality star thanks to his “party boy” ways. “I got offered a bunch of reality show stuff but I didn’t want to be known for that, so I turned it all down,” Braun told THR.com in 2010. But it’s no wonder he’s such a natural on The Wanted’s E! show, The Wanted Life.
5. Braun’s dream? A college degree. As important as music industry accolades are to Braun, nothing would make him prouder than if his alma mater, Emory, awarded him with an honorary degree. “That would be amazing,” he says. “I’d be so honored. … Especially because of a conversation I once had with a counselor there. He basically told me the story of Robert Woodruff, who founded Coca-Cola and is the No. 1 benefactor in Emory history. And here I was, on academic probation because I was throwing my parties and missing classes like crazy. I get called into his office and he gives me this whole speech about staying in school … and, at the end, he looks at me and goes, ‘Because you’re not Robert Woodruff. The chances of you being successful are so small that you need to focus.’ He’s the reason I dropped out of college. Even now, if you doubt me, I need to go and win. But I do owe so much to Emory. It started my career.”
6. Barbecue is key to a happy business. Working for SB Projects is not a bad gig — especially considering Braun hosts weekly barbecues at his Beverly Hills office. As Braun describes the Friday treat to his staff of 26: “Even if I’m not there, I pay for the barbecue and let the staff bring whoever they want. We have a big outdoor courtyard, we’ve done contests — like the milk contest that I saw in college, where you try to drink two gallons of milk and then projectile vomit into garbage cans (I make them sign wavers), we’ve had candy tossing. … It’s the best feeling in the world — that we get to be adults, but we don’t lose the fun. They’ve worked their asses off all week. Let them have a good time.”
7. Braun came this close to being named an American Idol judge for season 13 … but when the Fox show wouldn’t budge on allowing him to manage the winner, he walked away from the offer. Now counting more than 10 clients under the SB Management banner (among them: Ariana Grande, Cody Simpson, The Wanted, Amber Riley and Psy), Braun says he’ll never give up on one of his artists. “As long as I can pay my mortgage, go to my office every day, and I can afford to have that staff there, we will always try and help that artist. … At some point, you may have to be real and say, ‘I don’t know if this is working,’ but if you’re creative you’ll always figure out another way.”
8. The secret sauce when it comes to Braun’s business acumen? A three-letter word: gut. “My gut is my No. 1 asset,” he says. “I also like to draw from a lot of people and I ask a lot of questions. I’ll literally show my ideas to 500 different people and get their opinions, and, in the end after digesting all their opinions, I just trust my gut.”
9. Every deal Braun makes has a charitable component. “Like, every deal,” Braun emphasizes. “Not just with Justin, my entire company. My brother and I made a pact that every deal we do has to have a charitable component otherwise we don’t do it.”
10. Braun’s idols are closer to home. Although he looks up to such moguls as Richard Branson, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, Braun says the best advice he’s received has simply come from fathers. “From my own father, from [Universal Music Group chairman] Lucian Grainge, from Chaka Zulu, who didn’t give me advice as Ludacris‘ manager, but as the father of a 19-year-old. He said: ‘Our job is to no longer stop them from falling down. Our job is to be there to help them get up.”
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