McIngvale’s $7-Million Super Bowl Bet: Crazy Like a Fox

by | 02.03.2014 | 4:28pm
James McIngvale

Horse owner and furniture salesman extraordinaire Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale was all over the news in the wake of the Seattle Seahawks' trouncing of the Denver Broncos in Sunday's Super Bowl – and not just in the Houston, Texas, marketplace where his Gallery Furniture store is based.

McIngvale, who is known for his outlandish promotions, went out on a limb recently by promising full refunds to anyone who spent $6,000 or more on furniture in the days leading up to the Super Bowl if Seattle wound up beating Denver. The promotion was a huge success, with shoppers flooding Gallery Furniture and keeping the delivery trucks rolling right up until game time on Sunday. When the Seahawks upset the Broncos, however, McIngvale was out $7 million.

Make no mistake about it: McIngvale is crazy…like a fox. He's built his fortune on creative promotions and publicity stunts like this one.

“He's going to get millions of dollars of publicity on this, which he loves, along with good will,” said Keith Chamblin, a senior vice president at the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. “It's amazing. But $7 million, that's a big number.”

Already there has been a column about the $7-million loss by Darren Rovell on, another article in the Washington Post, an Associated Press story that appears on websites from Bellingham, Wash., to Birmingham, Ala., and even a story on a Spanish language site. And, of course, there has been all kinds of publicity about McIngvale on television and newspapers in the Houston market. Expect a second wave of national publicity on cable television. The website is promoting the $7-million loss, too, with the headline screaming across the top of the home page, “CUSTOMERS WIN $7,000,000.”

“He's already got his promotion in value back,” said Bryan Pettigrew, senior vice president of NTRA Advantage and formerly with Sam Houston Race Park, where he worked on local promotions with McIngvale.

“He is definitely an innovator of sports promotions, always looking for something new, exciting and memorable. He understands getting his Gallery Furniture and name out there.”

A racing executive once looked at how much McIngvale was pouring into a Gallery Furniture promotion at the racetrack and asked Pettigrew, “How is he making money doing this?”

He brought Thoroughbreds into his showroom and put's name on Turfway Park's premier race for 3-year-olds, the Spiral Stakes. He also assisted the NTRA on marketing the sport in its early days, but McIngvale's style didn't fit very well in the parameters of horse racing marketing committees.

When I reached McIngvale at Gallery Furniture Monday afternoon, he picked up the phone hoping I was calling about Discipline, a 3-year-old Sky Mesa colt who broke his maiden by 10 1⁄2 lengths for trainer Chris Richard at Oaklawn Park on Friday. “I need to get me a Triple Crown winner,” he said, “then I can really promote this.” McIngvale almost seemed a little let down when I asked about the “big game” promotion instead.

“From a financial standpoint this didn't go well,” he said, “but we get an A+ from a marketing standpoint.

“The best thing is it brought out tons of millennials,” he said, referring to those born after 1980. “We own the baby boomer market, as does horse racing, but there are plenty of affluent millennials, and that's what we were looking for. We resonated with trust, with product, and credibility. They are talking about this at the water cooler at work, but also on Facebook and Twitter.”

Is there anything horse racing can learn from the promotion that just “cost” McIngvale $7 million?

“It's got to be fun and topical,” said McIngvale. “And don't be afraid to go out on a limb.”

  • Don Reed

    NO wonder the spread was ONLY 2 1/2.

    I should add, in the interest of Equal Time (remember that obsolete idea?), that Mr. McI is:


    Ask his former trainers.

    All of them.

    • louisbille

      Riiight Don, and I’m sure his former trainers are paragons of virtue. All of them. Keep on blasting owners who put millions into the game, great strategy.

      • You do have a point. By being intolerable, the man ended up employing a number of trainers, all of whom did financially benefit, in the short run. Seriously, yes, in that respect, this was good for the “game.”

        What doesn’t wash is your assertion – hence, you name, “Louiisbile” – oops, misspelt it – that I’m “blasting owners.” Last time we counted heads, Mr. McI was one – ONE – owner.

        Some owners are great. Most, as in all categories, are run of the mill. Some are dreadful.

        According to you, they’re all the same. They’re ALL just “owners.”

  • riatea

    No, that was just crazy like a crazy person.

  • fb0252

    the smartest move of all time possibly was when McIngvale fired Zito back in 98 and put his sister in charge of the 100 horse stable.

    • jack

      he’d been using Billy Turner in NY this past year…..another not-so brilliant move, but I think he finally got fed up and shipped them to Chris Richard at Oaklawn after everyone of them showed nothing

      • Black Helen

        Remember Seattle Slew.
        Billy Turner is a true horseman,
        not a modern era “Needle Infested, Super Trainer”

        • renee

          You should stop trying to rewrite history. Go back and do a little research as to why Billy Turner was relieved of his duties as trainer of Seattle Slew.

          • Marshall Cassidy


            Probably going where I shouldn’t: You may not know the Slew Crew had a problem with Billy after he had a serious problem with their eagerness to parade the Big Horse — tired from his Triple Crown campaign — all over the country for monetary gain. That appearance at Yakima Downs, I believe, ended their relationship.

        • jack

          Turner has been a 5% trainer over the past 25 years. His maidens don’t race professionally, they never “move forward” with experience. It seems to take him 2 years to figure out his horses need a class drop, and when they inevitably leave his barn, they often show a complete reversal in form. I consider Bill Mott, Christophe Clement and Allen Jerkens to be “true horsemen”….I’ll lump Turner in with Gary Sciacca.

          Maybe I’m wrong, but being a 5% horseman doesn’t automatically make you “old school” in my book. BTW, I don’t judge trainers by their win %, I judge them by what I see over the course of time.

  • Ned Daly

    If that was me, I would have bought an insurance policy against the chance of loss. Are we sure he did not do the same?

    • David Juffet

      He used geico and saved 15% lol.

    • Mimi Hunter

      I would be real surprised if he didn’t – unless it didn’t make sense [too expensive and counterproductive from the popular opinion standpoint].

    • brussellky

      Buying insurance against a 50/50 proposition makes no sense due to the expense. He could have guaranteed a roughly $3.5MM loss regardless of the result or rolled the dice and face a $7MM loss or zero loss which is almost certainly what he did.

  • Richard C

    He is also scooting all over the radio through interviews on various talk shows. If this was some national campaign, then the bounce from the story would potentially be solid. But someone living many, many zip codes from the closest store is not trekking many, many miles to buy stuff.

  • vinceNYC

    A tea party nut

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