SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: January 18, 2023

Episode Summary

What The CW offers LIV Golf; what Kevin Warren said in his opening presser with the Bears; and what’s next for pickleball?

Episode Transcription

Less than a week to submit your nominations for the 2023 Sports Business Awards. Nomination deadline is Monday, January 23rd. To submit your nomination today, visit

Well, I played pickleball for the first time last week and I enjoyed it, but was startled by the number of people playing and the mix of ages playing. Now, we know people are playing the sport, but can it be a business? We'll see. And Horizon Sports and Experiences is producing the inaugural pickleball slam featuring Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, John McEnroe, and Andy Roddick. This will be held Sunday, April 2nd at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, Florida, and will be broadcast exclusively on ESPN. So more efforts to build a viable sports business around pickleball.

And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, January 18th. Good morning. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Well, let's start with LIV Golf. LIV Golf hasn't had a ton of great news recently, and its second season starts next month, but the series could be close to announcing a TV deal in the US. And as our John Ourand first reported last month, it looks like it will be with the CW Network. That would be a big step for LIV, which of course hasn't had a media deal in the United States to date. And this deal with the CW would see its 14 events this year shown on over the air network that is in more than 220 US markets.

This would be the first sports deal for the CW network and SI is reporting they will do a multi-year agreement, and the initial deal would be a revenue sharing arrangement, no rights fee being paid, but what would it get LIV Golf? A media partner, increased visibility, broader reach. While this is with a non-traditional network, LIV Golf will like that the CW draws a very young audience, which every sports league covets, and CW has new owners. This deal marks the new effort under those new owners Nexstar Television. They purchased 75% of the CW in August and LIV Golf could benefit by being a key part of that strategy.

Let's move on. Well, Kevin Warren made it official and was introduced on Tuesday, yesterday, as the new CEO of the Chicago Bears. He covered a lot of ground in his initial press conference so let's touch on what he covered. First, there have been discussions about formally starting his role at the Bears in April. So right now that is the formal start date, but Warren said he's already working closely with outgoing Bears president, Ted Phillips, from a transition standpoint. He also said he feels he's leaving the Big Ten in a very good position and in a slight shot to his predecessor, said he's leaving the conference in a better situation than the one he found it in.

In another telling comment, when asked what he learned from the Big Ten that will help him at the Bears, he said, "You better be tough." And Warren added that the planned new stadium in Arlington Park is currently the team's only focus. But he said that planning for such a massive facility and a massive move will take time. He compared it to his time at the Vikings when he spent almost a year in planning U.S. Bank Stadium. With Warren's hire, the McCaskey family will have their general manager, Ryan Poles report directly to Kevin Warren, but the general manager will continue to have complete authority when it comes to football decisions. But this does make Kevin Warren one of the most powerful non-ownership CEOs in the NFL. Kevin Warren said that he didn't approach the Bears about the opening, they came to him. So this is definitely the start of a new era for the Chicago Bears.

This doesn't happen often as the Bears have only had a handful of leaders. And I'll be looking to see if Kevin Warren brings in some of his own people or how he manages with the Bears current administrative and business staff. As far as the Big Ten, they haven't given any clues on how they will go about replacing Warren, but let's just say the people in the room making the decision on the new hire for a conference commissioner will be different from the time Warren was hired almost three years ago. SBJ's Michael Smith noted the rapid turnover rate among Big Ten presidents and chancellors, 12 newly hired presidents and chancellors in the last two years. And that means that the Big Tens Leadership Council will have really no carryover from when Kevin Warren was hired in late 2019. So all new faces making this hire pretty much. It could not be determined as of yesterday if the Big Ten has selected a search firm to assist on filling this important role.

Moving on to some news around soccer. Ted Siegel completed a big deal for his MLS Houston Dynamo and NWSL Dash as the team upsold a current partner Shell and the team stadium will now be known as the Shell Energy Stadium. Under a multi-year agreement between the two, the 21,000 seat soccer specific stadium has had a number of names since it's opened in 2012. Yes, it was known as PNC Stadium, BBVA Stadium, BBVA Compass Stadium, now Shell Energy Stadium. The team's owner, Siegel, was bullish about the partnership and pleased to have a brand like Shell, which has such a significant presence in the city of Houston, as a partner with the organization. The two sides will work on sustainability initiatives, energy efficient improvements at the stadium and decarbonization initiatives. As noted, Shell's relationship with the Dynamo and Dash started last year when the company became the club's exclusive energy provider. Now they upsell them into a naming rights partner, but a big deal for the Dynamo and Dash.

The sale of the Ottawa Senators is moving forward as Galatioto Sports Partners who is handling the sale will be able to share private financial data on the team with approved bidders for the club. More than a dozen groups have signed NDAs with the NHL and Galatioto Sports Partners, but that doesn't mean they'll get all the access. Groups have to be approved in order to see information on the club's financials. They'll converse with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, who will probably indicate what the league expects for sale price. Any new owners have been told that they have to keep the team in Ottawa. But bottom line, this process is moving forward and it should be another good litmus test of the marketplace for the NHL teams in Canada.

And finally, we'll end with this. It could have been a great grand plan or it could be mere coincidence. We know that Manchester United are looking at a potential sale. We know that Davos, this week in Switzerland, draws some of the richest people in the world. That's why people are buzzing over the fact that Manchester United set up a shop in Davos this week. Yes, the same week as the World Economic Forum, which of course draws the wealthiest people in the world, financial leaders from around the globe. It draws CEOs and leaders in tech, media and government, all people who could be interested in buying a sports team right? Well, the team stress at the Hospitality Lounge was to entertain clients and not attract buyers for the club. But the team admitted they will host guests all during the week. And Manchester United co-chair, Avram Glazer, who reportedly attends Davos regularly, is expected to be there later this week.

So that's a fun story. But another really news-related to a possible sale, the big news is that one of the richest people in the UK billionaire Jim Ratcliffe, has confirmed that he is very interested and officially in the running to buy Manchester United from the Glazers. He has long been rumored to be a suitor. Many feel he would bring the needed resources to the team and he is one name certainly to watch in this process.

So that is your morning Buzzcast for Wednesday, January 18th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Thanks for spreading the word on the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.