Image: Billy Beane
Paul Sakuma  /  AP
Other executives apparently have considered trying to get Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane into business. He says he has turned down numerous other offers to serve on the boards of other companies that didn’t seem like a good fit for his skills.
updated 1/4/2007 12:01:06 AM ET 2007-01-04T05:01:06

Renowned for building one of baseball’s most successful teams on a shoestring budget, Oakland Athletics executive Billy Beane will test his business acumen by joining the board of NetSuite Inc. — a rising Silicon Valley company backed by computer software mogul Larry Ellison.

Beane will remain the Oakland A’s general manager, a job that has attracted more attention since he was lionized in a 2003 book called “Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game.”

The Beane appointment, scheduled to be announced Thursday, represents a public-relations coup for NetSuite, an Internet-based maker of business management software preparing for an initial public offering of stock later this year.

The much-anticipated IPO is expected to further enrich Ellison, who dipped into the $22 billion fortune that he amassed as co-founder of Oracle Corp. to bankroll San Mateo-based NetSuite in 1998. Ellison is expected to remain NetSuite’s controlling shareholder even after the IPO.

Beane said he was drawn to NetSuite because of the Ellison connection, as well as the company’s unorthodox approach of selling online subscriptions to software instead of distributing the complex programs on discs that must to be installed on computer hard drives.

“I like to diversify myself,” Beane said during an interview Wednesday. “This is an opportunity to be with a company with an impressive pedigree and to be around people that do things differently.”

With 2006 revenue of about $70 million, NetSuite remains relatively small. But its upcoming IPO has piqued investors’ interest because of Ellison’s mystique and the returns generated by one of the company’s biggest rivals, Inc.

Since’s stock market debut in 2004, the company’s shares have more than tripled from their IPO price of $11.

By becoming a director for a company on the verge of a high-profile IPO, Beane is taking his biggest step outside sports since the “Moneyball” book began opening new doors.

The best-seller by Michael Lewis dissects how Beane has relied on a mix of unconventional wisdom and objective data to identify baseball players undervalued by teams far richer than the A’s, whose payroll consistently ranks among the lowest in the sport.

Beane’s system has helped the A’s overcome their financial restraints to forge one of Major League Baseball’s best records since Beane became general manager in 1998.

Only the big-budget New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves have won more regular-season games than the A’s during Beane’s nine seasons as general manager. The A’s have qualified for the playoffs in five of the past seven seasons, but haven’t advanced to World Series in that time.

Beane’s track record has won him many fans among business leaders, including NetSuite co-founder Evan Goldberg and the company’s chief executive, Zachary Nelson.

“This idea about working with Billy has been rolling around my head ever since ’Moneyball’ came out,” Nelson said.

Other executives apparently have had similar ideas because Beane said he has turned down numerous other offers to serve on the boards of other companies that didn’t seem like a good fit for his skills. He is currently a director at two privately held companies involved in sports, equipment-maker Easton-Bell Sports Inc. and ProTrade, the maker of an Internet game that trades professional athletes like stocks.

Nelson, an A’s season-ticket holder, began to court Beane more seriously during the past year as he realized NetSuite would need to expand its board before the IPO. NetSuite’s other directors are all insiders: Nelson, Goldberg and three members representing the interests of Ellison and the company’s other major investor, venture capital firm StarVest Partners.

NetSuite still hopes to add at least two more directors, Nelson said. Beane, though, said he isn’t planning to join any other corporate boards.

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