SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: January 30, 2024

Episode Summary

PGA Tour inches closer to key investment; Are major changes coming to the tennis calendar and Ironman lands new CEO

Episode Transcription

I spent a few days with leaders in college sports over the weekend and one thing I was told time and again by the people I respect and really listen to, they told me anyone in college sports who says they know how everything is going to shake out is really speaking from a place of misinformation because the bottom line is no one knows what's going to happen in this very unsettled college athletic space. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, January 30th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Thanks for Joe Lemire for picking up Monday's Buzzcast.

We will have plenty of Super Bowl coverage. I will be in Las Vegas starting next Tuesday evening. If you're there, I'd love to say hi, but the viewership numbers from the NFC Championship continues to show the NFL's massive postseason push as Fox drew more than 56 million viewers for the 49ers comeback win over the Lions. It will likely be the best NFC Championship game since 2012. That was Giants- 49ers. So figures for the AFC Championship not available as of Tuesday, but what we're seeing continued massive interest in the NFL's postseason. Meanwhile, my producer Reggie Walker, your picks for the postseason, they've been a little bit iffy, haven't they?

It has not been pretty at all. For some reason I bet against Patrick Mahomes, I have learned my lesson. I will never do that again. So if anybody's wondering who I'm picking for the Super Bowl, I think I just told you right there.

So real quick, Reggie, did you go against Patrick Mahomes twice?

In a backhanded way I did. I went back and forth on the AFC championship game and ultimately said, I'm going to go with Lamar, but I have a feeling Patrick is going to make me look bad. And that's exactly what he did.

Well, we will see. And like I said, more news about the Super Bowl on the Buzzcast all next week.

Let's move on because we are close to a new day for the PGA Tour as multiple reports have the tour on the verge of selling a stake of its commercial business to Strategic Sports Group, which consists of a number of US team owners and other investors. Now the deal is potentially worth up to $3 billion for a minority stake in PGA Tour Enterprises. It's not clear what this deal says about a future partnership between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, as there has been a tentative deal since last March, but no deal has been finalized yet.

So let's focus on the Strategic Sports Group. Who is it? Well, it's the members of Fenway Sports Group, John Henry, Tom Werner, Gerry Cardinale and Mike Gordon. It also includes Celtic's lead owner, Wick Grousbeck, Brewer's owner, Mark Attanasio, Arthur Blank, Mets owner, Steve Cohen, Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry and Chicago Cubs owner, Tom Ricketts and others.

But you see the mix of these very important influential wealthy sports investors. And the bet here is that this group can infuse the PGA Tour with capital, help it set up PGA Tour Enterprises and help the PGA Tour reform its business operations to really increase revenue and at the bottom line make more money for the players. So look for more on this deal over the next few days, but PGA Tour on the cusp of a massive reorg and a massive deal with Strategic Sports Group.

We've talked about this on the Buzzcast, another sport facing possible change or disruption is tennis. And there could be some major changes around the biggest events in tennis around the world and the goal seems to have the best players play in more bigger tournaments throughout the year. Does that sound familiar? Yes. It's exactly what the PGA Tour has been thinking about.

On the tennis side, there are plans for a new premium tour, according to reports out of London, which would see somewhere between 11 to 14 combined events, men's and women's events, join the four Grand Slams in a new high-level circuit. Progress is reportedly being made on this concept. Leaders in tennis gave briefings on the plans to players at the Australian Open.

So in this setup, events like Indian Wells, Cincinnati, Rome and others would really step up to be part of this premium tour. The hard part is what happens to the tournaments that don't make the premium tour. The London Times said those would be almost relegated to a development tour and that would not sit well, I'm sure, with the leaders and tournament directors of those events. But if there are this many combined events at a global stage, it would be a shot in the arm for women's tennis. Female players would get equal pay and certainly more exposure. So it's a real boost to the WTA.

The ATP tour is said to be less interested to see their leading tournaments elevate to a new tour for various reasons. But this plan is moving forward and look for more details around this concept in a couple of months during Indian Wells when that hits, California.

NASCAR starts its season this week with Clash at the Coliseum, and Tuesday, today, represents a big step for NASCAR as they will launch full speed on Netflix. Now, yes, everyone says this is NASCAR's Drive to Survive, but to be honest, NASCAR has done a number of docu-series around their series, but this is their first one with Netflix. This will be a significant showcase for NASCAR. It certainly looks to get a bounce from this series on Netflix. The series will be very focused on the personal stories of the drivers. It's a five-episode series and it will only follow the 2023 Cup Series playoffs.

So 10 races and 16 drivers, not a full season. So five episodes around the playoff chase and there are some big names behind this series. You have Connor Schell, and Libby Geist, best known for ESPN's 30 for 30. You have the great writer Aaron Cohen. You also Dale Earnhardt Jr. Those are some of the names behind Full Speed, launches on Netflix, five episodes, tonight, Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile, staying with motorsports, you kept hearing or you keep hearing about this Formula One film starring Brad Pitt. It's been very, very under wraps in terms of details around this movie, but Brad Pitt was seen at the Rolex 24 at Daytona over the weekend filming scenes for his yet to be titled Formula One movie. I know there's a lot of talk about that. We did see the movie Ferrari hit theaters in December that starred Adam Driver and was directed by Michael Mann. That has not been a commercial hit. Brad Pitt hoping to have a commercial hit with his Formula One movie. Release date and the name of the movie yet to be disclosed.

And we'll end the Buzzcast around people. A big hire at the Ironman Group as Scott DeRue will take over as CEO of Ironman. He joins the company from Equinox where he was president. He previously served on Equinox board before being named president. Before that he spent more than 15 years at the University of Michigan, including five as the Dean of the Stephen Ross School of Business. So a different interesting background for this executive, but he also has personal experience in the endurance community. He has summited Everest and Denali and several other of the world's highest peaks, as well as completing an ultra marathon. So this gentleman lives the lifestyle of Ironman.

Ironman had hired Spencer Stewart to lead the search following the retirement of longtime president and CEO Andrew Messick last year. So Scott DeRue taking over as CEO of the Ironman Group. It should be noted that Advance the Parent Company of Sports Business Journal owns Ironman. They acquired Ironman in 2020.

And finally, big news at SBJ. We will honor Arthur Blank with our lifetime Achievement Award this May at the Sports Business Awards. Arthur Blank is a great story in sports business. He of course bought majority control of the Falcons in 2002. He has since become owner of the Atlanta United. He is the operator and the vision behind Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He has long been one of the leading influential voices among NFL owners, but he's not just involved in the NFL. Like I said, he is a major force in soccer with the Atlanta United and also a major gift to bring US soccer to Atlanta.

He's a major force in the world of golf. He acquired PGA Tour Superstores and that is one of the largest golf retailers around the world. In addition, we all know what his leadership of Atlanta United has resulted in one of the best teams in Major League Soccer. And with Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He really reimagined and revitalized downtown Atlanta.

To me, Arthur Blank strongly believes in the power of sports to improve society and communities. He is a modern-day sports industrialist whose bold investments and innovations have set the standard, and he is always focused on the fan and the community he serves. I find him to be a very worthy recipient of SBJ's highest honor. So SBJ awarding Arthur blank with our Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sports Business Awards in May, we will also profile Blank's incredible background and journey in the May 6th issue of SBJ. If you have any questions or comments on Arthur Blank, please let me know.

And so that is your Morning Buzzcast for Tuesday, January 30th. I'm Abe Madkour. Thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you on Wednesday.