José Salibi Neto is a former standout for South Carolina’s tennis program, but his achievements on the court pale to the success he has found after his playing days ended.
Living in his native Brazil, Salibi Neto still holds a tremendous love for his alma mater and enjoys seeing the men’s tennis program continue to rise in national prominence. He is the co-founder and chief knowledge officer of the HSM Group, a leading international multimedia management organization with offices in six countries, and he credits South Carolina with helping prepare him for the business world.
“I went to the United States; I spoke very little English,” Salibi Neto said. “I’m thankful to the school that I got a scholarship. I had all the help I could get with tutors to get me through college. So I’ll be forever thankful for the school. All the preparation I received there and being able to relate to all kinds of people from all kinds of nationalities, and to be able to go get my master’s in international business afterwards has prepared me for all the things I’m doing now.”
Salibi Neto transferred to South Carolina from Florida State as a junior, and the Gamecocks went a combined 50-11 during his career going 27-5 in 1980-81 and 23-6 during the 1981-82 season. Although he is respected around the world for keeping his fingers on the pulse of global business issues, remaining close with his alma mater is still very important to him.
“It’s like my house,” Salibi Neto said. “I try to give back to the school as much as I can, not only financially but with connections and knowledge that I’ve accumulated over the years.”
In addition to supporting the university financially, Salibi Neto is proud to talk to aspiring student-athletes in his home country about what South Carolina has to offer in academics and athletics. He encourages other alumni to do the same.
“The University of South Carolina is the ideal place to be,” Salibi-Neto said. “The school has all of the amazing facilities and unbelievable academics. I recommend it all the time. My dream is to have the tennis alumni community to come together more to help the school more and help the (tennis) program become a top five team, and, who knows, win the NCAA someday.”
Salibi Neto earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business. Despite a horrendous economic crisis in Brazil in 1987, which was marked by sky-rocketing inflation, he and two friends founded HSM group in Brazil at age 26 with no money.
Within a few years, HSM had become the leading management seminar company in Brazil. He and his partners soon began organizing management seminars all over South America and started a highly successful management magazine (Gestion/HSM Management). By 2000, the company had offices all over the globe, including Mexico City, New York, Madrid and Milan. They also started ExpoManagement, which is the world’s largest management conference and exposition and is organized yearly in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Spain.
Salibi Neto says there are several basic keys to his success.
“Trying to be different, work hard, create amazing relationships, using sports – in this case tennis – and always try to learn, study, and be ahead of the game,” Salibi-Neto said. “I study, read and talk to people who are better than me. I try to do that all the time.”
In 2009 he was honored with a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Moore School of Business, and he is a member of the school’s International Business Advisory Board. Looking back at his days on campus, he has plenty of fond memories.
“Sometimes I wish I was a student again,” Salibi-Neto said. “Sometimes you realize that the place is unbelievable when you leave there. I enjoyed every minute of it. I went to every football game and to ever concert. And of course I had great teachers.”
Salibi Neto had another good reason to stay connected to the Gamecocks, as current head coach Josh Goffi is the son of one of his former coaches, Carlos Goffi. He has enjoyed watching the blossoming career of someone he’s known since he was a child.
“He’s doing an amazing job,” Salibi-Neto said. “I have no doubt that we’re going to achieve unbelievable success with Josh at the command. I wish I was 18 so I could apply to play tennis for Josh.”