Paxton Baker is a minority owner of the Washington Nationals Baseball club and currently serves as chairman of the Washington Nationals Founding Partners Group. In 2015, Baker became a partner in the Washington Kastles World Team Tennis League. He is also a governing Board Member of the Global Sports Summit.
In 2006, Baker was appointed by the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives to serve as a member of the Congressional Award Foundation National Board of Directors, the only official charity of the United States Congress. A year later he was elected to serve as Vice Chairman and then Chairman of the Board.
He also served as the Executive Vice President and General Manager of Centric (formerly BETJ) a BET network targeting African American and multicultural adults, owned by Viacom Media.
MHC: How did you become a minority owner of the Washington National’s Baseball Team?
PB: Overtime this has become one of my favorite questions. The answer is simple, my Dentist, Dr. Ronald (Ronnie) Rosenberg. I literally was sitting in his chair one day and he asked me if I have been following the Nationals, which were the former Montreal Expos Major League Baseball (MLB) team that moved to the Nation’s Capital. I had been loosely following the process. The franchise relocated to Washington D.C. and MLB was in the process of finalizing the local group for permanent ownership of the baseball club. Dr. Rosenberg, asked me if I will be open to meet Mark Lerner who is the son and Edward Cohen the son-in-law of Ted Lerner a legendary real estate developer in the Washington D.C. area. A week later I had the opportunity to connect by phone with Mark and from there set up a meeting with the Lerner family. We establish a warm rapport, the connection that was made through my dentist was instrumental in me developing a relationship with the Lerner family and becoming a minority partner.
MHC: Explain the significance of relationship building as well as being prepared for opportunities when it comes to business?
PB: When I do speeches, I talk about the importance of relationship building on a continuous basis. The importance of building quality relationships in addition to being a good friend is imperative. Treat people the way that you would like to be treated. It is rewarding to be a kind, aware, and thoughtful person. You never know when the opportunity may come out of a relationship from somebody who turns you on to someone else and that could end up being something meaningful in your life that leads to something compelling.
When an opportunity comes you must be prepared to take advantage of it from a positive perspective. Depending on the situation you may have to be both economically and socially prepared. You should have savings, amassed somethings that go beyond your day to day ability to sustain yourself to be able to participate in an investment that can be a life changer. Beyond money consider ways that you may add value to a person or group. An example would be how I met the Lerner family and the value of relationships that I bought to the table.
MHC: Tell me about your journey in the Entertainment field and your career at Black Entertainment Television (BET)?
PB: I have worked in the entertainment field since 1984. As a student at Temple University, I was a host on WRTI a 24-hour Jazz radio show that was programmed by students. Every Friday evening between nine to midnight I played music and interviewed artist. This was how I began building my relationship with artist and later led to me producing concerts. I had to learn how to book talent, reserve venues, coordinate logistics and write press releases. Four years later, from the fundamentals that I acquired at Temple, I created my company PKB arts and Entertainment Productions.
I got my start producing Jazz concerts, primarily, and then branched out to World, Latin and R&B music. In 1991, I begin producing Caribbean music festivals, concerts, and tours in Aruba. I started my relationship with BET for the 1991 Aruba Jazz and Latin Music Festival and the relationship really grew and blossomed. During, my second year of producing the festival, BET sent a crew down to shoot the event for one of their magazine shows. I was able to build a relationship with them by volunteering and helping them get interviews with artist and tourism officials in various locations in Aruba. In 1992, BET hosted the first ever St. Lucia Jazz Festival that I co-founded-along with the then director of tourism Allen Chastanet, who is now the newly elected Prime Minister of St. Lucia. That summer Allen and I pitched a concept to Bob Johnson (founder and former owner of BET) called Caribbean Rhythms. It was a ground breaking first of its kind show, shot throughout the region featuring a different island each week. That is how I broke into Television. I also, ended up marrying the host of the show Rachel and we recently celebrated 22 years of marriage.
For eight years, I was a consultant for BET. In March of 1999, I became the Senior Vice President and General Manager of BET Jazz. I sold my company PKB to BET in 2000. During that year, we launched a new company, BET Productions that I became President. In 2001, Viacom purchased BET. I was later promoted to Executive Vice President and General Manager of Centric, which was a partnership of the Viacom family that included the merger of BET networks and MTV networks.
The connection and relationships that I establish along the way, lead to me producing festivals for over 15 years for BET as well as having a senior level role in the company.
MHC: What are some memorable events you produced in your career?
PB: Rebuilding the Soul Train Awards to it glory which was one of the greatest brand and influential TV shows in African American and American culture. I was honored to have met and worked with Earth Wind and Fire, my favorite band of all time. Also, I had the opportunity to work with Stevie Wonder, Dionne Warwick, Chaka Chan, Charlie Wilson, Ron Islely, New Edition, Keith Sweat, Wolf Blitzer and other memorable artist. Lastly, Eddie Levert of the O’ Jays introduced me to the late Don Cornelius who passed the mantle on to me. The experience was beyond a dream come true.
I also had the opportunity to produce the Source Awards show two times one in 2006 and another in 2007.
In 2012, my dream came true of having the opportunity to work with the great Stevie Wonder who is a United Nation Peace Ambassador. I had the opportunity to work directly with Stevie and produce the concert for United Nation’s Day. We collaborated with an amazing array of artist such as BeBe Winans, Sting, Paul Simon, Wyclef Jean, Doug E. Fresh, Estelle, Janelle Monae, Valarie Simpson, Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Malcom Jamal Warner who hosted the event.
Another memorable event that I produced was the Salute to Selma, this was a weekend event that commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. On Saturday March 7, 2015 attendees included Congressman John Lewis, Mayor William Bell of Birmingham, and NAACP President Cornwell William Brooks. Also, in attendance was former President Barrack Obama and his family as well as former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush. The second day BET hosted an all-star concert that took place on the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Entertainers such as Harry Belafonte, Bill Withers, Cicely Tyson, Peter Yarrow, Gina Belafonte, and Radio host Tom Joyner, made appearances. Performances, included Eric Benet, Angie Stone, Keith Sweat, Bell Biv DeVoe, BlindBoys of Alabama, Flava Flav, Arrested Development, MC Lyte, Doug E. Fresh and many other artists.
Overall, I have been fortunate to develop lifelong friendships through my connections. I have been able to bring many artist and executives into events and projects that I have produced. The quality relationships that I developed in the past allowed me to be able to call on folks when I had opportunities to bring them into things I coordinated. This is why I stress the importance of building relationships with people. It is the most important thing that you can do in life. My success is an example on how relationships can be beneficial and a win-win and why you should always treat people the way you would like to be treated.
MHC: Tell me about your Fashion sense?
PB: I developed an early appreciation for stylish Jackets. Certainly, as a young person growing up seeing entertainer’s styles and flare had an influence on my fashion.
As a kid, I idolized the style and outfits of James Brown, Al Green, and the Beatles. I also like the showmanship and theatrics clothing of Liberace and Elvis. My deep love of history, has also been influential in the way I dress. I have an appreciation of military style clothing. The outfits and jackets that were worn by soldiers during the revolutionary war, war of 1812, and the Spanish wars had an impact on my style.
Back in 1994, I was walking in Manhattan with a friend, we were on the corner of 33rd and 7th, and there was a store called Panzai they had everything from Mustang, Dalmatian, Leopard, Tiger, and other unique print jackets. When I saw the jackets, I got wide eyed- I thought the styles were exotic and fly however my friend thought I was crazy and asked would I wear that?
Eventually, I ended up coming back and developing a friendship with the owner of the store John Naftali. As I grew in the entertainment and business field and begin to make a name for myself; I accumulated multiple unique jackets that became my signature style. I wear the jackets to award shows and I often end up just wearing black jeans and colorful shoes or sneakers. Many of my comedian friends from Anthony Anderson, Cedrick the Entertainer, Bill Bellamy, Jay Reid, and Chris Spencer, love the jackets and enjoyed the opportunity of being able to crack jokes on me. Every now and then, they will say, “actually, I will wear that”.
MHC: You are big advocate for Health and Fitness, what is your regime for staying active?
PB: Health is a part of everything meaningful and relevant in my life. It is an intricate part of growth and awareness. Leadership can be beneficial to others when you encourage them to be active and aware of their health. Most things in life starts with a desire. For me it’s wanting to be healthy, active, present, and attentive. The desire to be positive, the desire to be healthy, the desire to continue to learn and be mindful all are connected.
I stay active by working out about five to six times a week. I generally take Monday’s off because Sunday’s are my biggest day when it relates to sports for myself. On Sundays, I play basketball from March-October. I have a half court at my house so often I have about six to fifteen guys over for games.
In November and all through the winter, I canoe on the Potomac River with members from the Washington Canoe Club. I have just completed my twelfth season.
Another regime I do to stay active is run at the Nationals Park with my senior partner from the Lerner family. It is inspirational to see my older friends in their sixties and seventies who are in better shape than most forty-year old’s. I run with Ed Cohen who is 71 years old and is a physical specimen of what people can be at his age he is one of my heroes when it comes to fitness.
There are certain genetic markers that we are born with the things that give us proclivity for disorders. Some people are inclined for high blood pressure, diabetes, or health problems that we are predisposed to in our genes. However, your diet your physical exercise and your mindset makes a difference. One of my distinguishing features is my mental attitude. I am doing things to stay sharp, hopeful, and efficient every day that I am alive. Advocating for a healthy and active lifestyle is something that I hope to continue to do for the rest of my life.
MHC: What is your advice for those going after multiple dreams?
PB: Have an open mind believe in yourself. Do not say self-deprecating words and eliminate negative thoughts. When I was in college, a friend of mine Dwight Miller gave me a phrase that I live my life by “Never say anything about yourself that you would not want to be true.” You should be open minded to believe whatever you can set your mind to achieve. It is imperative to appreciate your passion and do not sell yourself short. Do not thwart your own dreams.
I was born in Compton, California in 1960. The neighborhood I came from there was no way one would have looked at me and said that this person will become a world traveler and grow to become a successful television executive, sports owner, philanthropist and entrepreneur in multiple fields.
MHC: What drives and motivates you to continuously be creative? What are your next projects?
PB: Life motivates me and I am a deeply passionate person. Since my departure from BET, I pretty much have been spending time with my family and working on strengthening my relationship with my ownership partners with the National’s. I have built a friendship with National’s manager Dusty Baker who I consider a genius.
I also developed a partnership and friendship with Mark Ein Principal owner of the Washington Kastles tennis team which is the only DC team to have had six consecutive championships. The Kastles had participation from Venus and Serena Williams, Martina Hingis and other highly talented tennis players.
Another friendship and interests I have is with the crew of Sneaker con. That is a youth culture entrepreneurship convention that travels throughout the U.S and the World.
What keeps me motivated and going is the opportunity to do things that never been done before and to add a different twist to things that have already been done. I love to travel and recently I accomplished one of my life long goals of visiting all fifty states. I would like to continue to travel to new places throughout the world.
Do not let adversity or even age prevent you from going after your dreams. Being a witness of history, I remember segregation growing up and not being able to use certain water fountains. I remember having to overcome multiple challenges such as having a learning disability and struggling with my academics as a child. As I age gracefully, I ask myself what is next in life, what else can I do to make a positive influence, what else can I do to stay creative, be healthy, while on this visionary journey.
Do not let the thought of getting older scare you. Do not let fear have a place in your mind, have faith in your dream. Age can give you knowledge and wisdom that you acquire over time that can be used as a catalyst to continue to add value to your life and others. The knowledge and experience that you attain over time can be a gift when willing to share.
Having an open mind and being willing to take risk and give back to communities is a critical component in me being the man that I am today. Achieving a positive mindset, being persistent, developing lifelong connections by forming great friendships and relationships is overall instrumental in being successful.
Paxton Baker is an American and citizen of the world. He is a father of four and currently resides in the Washington D.C. suburbs with his wife. Paxton Baker and Rachel Stuart has been together for twenty-two years Rachel.