SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: December 21, 2022

Episode Summary

A head-spinning news day; Ishbia's stunner in Phoenix; Masters drama heightened; Why Google likes Sunday Ticket and stories of the year in our final Buzzcast of '22

Episode Transcription

Steve Cohen and Scott Boras reportedly negotiated the stunning 12-year, $315 million deal between Carlos Correa and the Mets, while together in Hawaii. It marks an amazing turn of events. It continues the mega off-season for Scott Boras. And do you think Mets fans are fired up to have Steve Cohen as their owner? With this deal, Cohen and the Mets have committed more than $800 million to free agents this off-season, and their single season payroll for next year is estimated to be a stunning $380 million. This is just another major financial milestone in baseball. It will be celebrated among Mets fans, but it will cause great angst and great concern in many other markets. More to come on this mega deal.

And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, December 21st. I'm Abe Madkour. Hope you're all doing well. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. It is a very busy day as deals, obviously, we're trying to get done before the holidays. First, an NBA team president told me the night that the Phoenix Suns went up for sale, that he expected the team to be sold for $3 billion, which would be a record price for an NBA team. Well, let's just say he took the under, because the Suns and the Mercury and the NBA have hit pay dirt as mortgage lender, Mat Ishbia finalized a purchase of the two teams for a whopping $4 billion.

Ishbia is well known and well regarded within the NBA's office. He is close to Adam Silver. He has developed relationships with a number of NBA owners. Of course, he will have to go through a background check and be formally approved by the Board of Governors. I don't see any, any issues there. His brother Justin, is a founding partner in Shore Capital, will make a significant investment in the team and serve as the alternate governor.

Now, this deal just marks another major milestone in sports. We talked about it for baseball. Well, this is for the NBA. Remember, Joe Tsai bought the Brooklyn Nets for a record 2.35 billion. That's an NBA record. Prior to that, Tilman Fertitta purchased the Rockets for 2.2 billion. The real tipping point was Steve Ballmer buying the Clippers for 2 billion in 2014. Now we have Matt Ishbia buying the Suns and the Mercury for $4 billion.

So, who is he? He's 42 years old. That would make him the NBA's youngest principal owner. He would continue to give, or I would say, infuse the NBA with a younger, next generation owner, joining the likes of Ryan Smith of the Utah Jazz. He is president and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, that is a Michigan-based company. He has talked openly about his interest in sports team ownership in both the NBA and NFL.

He loves sports. He was a walk-on for the Michigan State basketball team and he was part of the Spartan's 2000 National Championship team. He is close to Tom Izzo. He talks about sports attributes and team discipline often in his company profiles. He has remained close to Michigan State and made a $32 million donation to the basketball program. So, he loves sports, he lives sports.

So, an interesting fact from the Detroit News, "Ishbia's purchase of the Suns would give the NBA three owners who went to Michigan State. Tom Gores at the Pistons, Dan Gilbert at the Cavs, and Ishbia. And it would bring five state of Michigan owners to the NBA, Steve Ballmer, Dan DeVos, would join Tom Gores, Dan Gilbert, and now Ishbia. So, Michigan well represented in the ranks of the NBA.

So, the sale would end Robert Sarver's tenure with the Suns. He bought the team in 2004 when he led a group to buy it from Jerry Colangelo for a then record $401 million. Now the team gets sold for 4 billion. Quite a story around the NBA and Mat Ishbia buying the Suns and the Mercury.

Let's move on. We hinted a deal for Sunday Ticket could be close on the Buzzcast yesterday. And sure enough, the Wall Street Journal reported last night that the NFL is in advanced talks with Google YouTube, who would gain exclusive rights to Sunday Ticket. A deal could be reached as early as today, on Wednesday. There were no details on possible deal terms. DIRECTV currently pays 1.5 billion a year for Sunday Ticket rights, and it's been well known that the NFL wanted and expected a number that started with 2 billion for its Sunday Ticket rights.

Now, if they land Sunday Ticket, it would help drive adoption and subscription to Google's YouTube streaming service and YouTube TV. Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal reported that this deal would only be for Sunday Ticket as the NFL didn't package in its NFL media properties as part of this deal. But again, more details could come as early as today, Wednesday, on a possible deal for Sunday Ticket.

I said it was a busy news day. Well, it is a huge decision in the world of golf and a big win, a subtle big win for LIV Golf, as Augusta National announced that any golfer who qualifies for the Masters based on its previous criteria will be invited to play in 2023. That includes 16 players who are currently competing in the LIV Golf League. So, that includes Mickelson, DJ, Sergio, Patrick Reed, I'm sure I'm missing some others, but that means they get automatic qualifiers to play the Masters. So, while Augusta National made a very, I would say, significant statement saying they were disappointed in the split in men's pro golf, they intended to honor the tradition of bringing together the top field of golfers in April.

So, all I'll say, think of the tension in April at Augusta when these groups meet. This will really drive interest and viewership around the Masters. Now, in terms of the other majors, the British Open has said it would not turn away those eligible to play in that major. The US Open hasn't announced its criteria, and the PGA Championship has not said what it will do, but Augusta National will be quite the event come April.

And that's a good segue to, as we end our final Buzzcast of the year, let's talk about the stories of the year that stood out to me. Three stand out. They were consistent throughout the year. First, I recall sitting with my colleague, John Ourand, at the Super Bowl in Los Angeles, in early February. And every conversation we had was dominated by the arrival of LIV Golf and we're still talking about LIV Golf today. They continue to grab headlines throughout the year. Story one.

Story two, to me, the shocking moves of UCLA and USC to the Big Ten. I mean, that changed the media fortunes for two conferences. It reshaped the map of college sports. It resulted in more fraught relationships that added to the dynamic tensions in intercollegiate athletics. So, a big story there.

Third story for me, I think this year will be remembered as a tipping point for investment and interest in women's sports. From the success of the UEFA's Women's EURO, to the hundreds of millions of dollars of planned investment in the WNBA, the NWSL, Athletes Unlimited, the Premier Hockey Federation, and others. There are foundational elements in place for the success of women's sports. But the rest of the sports business marketplace around women's sports such as sponsorship, ticket sales, and merchandise, need serious focus and attention.

A couple of other quick things. My favorite sports documentary of the year. There were so many to choose from. I liked The Captain far more than I thought I would. I really enjoyed. Welcome to Wrexham. I thought Race for the Championship gave me a greater appreciation and understanding of NASCAR, but the tennis fan in me won out and I felt that Showtime's McEnroe brought back so many memories of my youth and showed a rare, self-critical portrait of John McEnroe that I found very, very compelling.

And as we use a few days of '22 to catch our breath, I'll just say get ready. 2023, we'll see some incredibly important stories. Look at all the team sales. We talked about the Suns. There's still the Angels, the Nationals, the Commanders, the Senators, Liverpool, ManU. Think of the marketplace. This will be a significant test of the franchise market amid economic headwinds.

I'll be watching NASCAR's media rights negotiations, not just with the networks, but also what percentage of revenue will be distributed to NASCAR teams. I'm really interested to see how new NCAA President, Charlie Baker, changes the tenor around college sports. And will the NCAA's Transformation Committee really be transformative? A lot of issues in college sports we'll keep an eye on.

I'll be following the transition and adoption of MLS's new media deal with Apple. Everybody I speak with is fascinated with this deal. And can Formula 1 continue to grow in popularity in the United States? And how will Formula 1 fair operationally and commercially at their debut race in Vegas November of '23?

So, that's just the sampling of the news we can expect to keep our eye on in 2023. And this is our final Buzzcast of the year. So, on behalf of everyone at Sports Business Journal, thank you for your continued support. Thank you for listening and spreading the word on the Buzzcast. Our numbers continue to grow and that's very gratifying to everybody here. I want to thank our producers, Reggie Walker and Chris Mason. They do a great job every morning, making me and David Albright sound good. Well, I'm Abe Madkour. So, stay healthy, be good to each other, and have a very safe and happy holiday and a very healthy new year. I look forward to speaking to you and seeing you in 2023. Have a great, great holiday, everybody.