The genesis for Bob Bernstein’s career came in 1980. As a 14-year-old, Bernstein’s father took him and his twin brother, Mike, to a Phoenix Suns game at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Donald Bernstein gave each boy $20 and told them to buy tickets from people who had extras, then resell them.
“We were kind of cute and a lot of people ended up giving us tickets,” Bob Bernstein said. “We turned $20 into $40. We’ve been doing it ever since.”
Bernstein and his brother are co-founders and owners of eSeats.com, a Scottsdalebased ticket firm founded in October 2003. The brothers have earned their living buying and selling ducats for concerts, sporting events and the theater. Bob Bernstein estimates annual revenue at $6 million to $8 million.
“Over the next eight years, after my dad taught us how to do it, we hustled (tickets to) every event in Phoenix,” Bernstein said. “Dad used to hustle for the theater and plays on Broadway in New York.”
The Bernstein boys listened well. Bob said they put themselves through Arizona State University as French majors and earned master’s degrees in business from the Garvin School on International Management in Glendale. The brothers spent time in an exchange program in France when the French Open tennis tournament was being held.
“When we found out, we looked at each other and said, ‘This could be interesting,’ ” Bob said. “We picked up tickets from the box office and went to concierges at hotels to check for Americans who might want to go to the Open. Before we knew it, we had enough money to pay for our flights back home.”
From there, Mike Bernstein created Championship Tennis Tours, now in the same location as eSeats.com. Bob said the tennis ticket company had 7,000 customers for this year’s U.S. Open alone.
The Bernsteins work with brokers around the nation to buy tickets for events. A customer Thursday called for tickets to Sunday’s Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots NFL football game. Bob estimates Valley customers provide only 3 percent of eSeats.com’s business.
The firm, which is a member of the Better Business Bureau, tacks on a 10 percent to 15 percent service charge above what it paid for a ticket.
“We think the great difference (with eSeats) is the quality of service and integrity of our business,” Bob said. “We provide tickets for sold-out events that the general public might not get. I think I can shop for tickets better than the other person. We take the burden (of finding tickets) from customers.”
Bernstein said Arizona Cardinals games are currently the biggest draw in the Valley because of the allure of new University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, and visiting teams.
“We sell memories,” Bernstein said. “We create a bond between ourselves and customers. A lot of our business is repeat. We have a passion. We really care about what we do.”