SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: March 17, 2023

Episode Summary

Jordan rules the news;"Air" debuts at SWSX; Infantino calls out companies for failing to step up on women's sports and two Philadelphia stories

Episode Transcription

Well, first of all, Happy St. Patrick's Day on this Friday. Second, I hope your bracket isn't too busted. I did not do a bracket. As I said, I'm relying on my producer Reggie Walker. Reggie, are your brackets still alive?


Still alive? I did not have Virginia or Arizona in the Final Four, so that is keeping me afloat right now.


Well, good for you. That's why I turn to you. And we hope you enjoy what should be a great sports weekend. This is your Morning Buzzcast for Friday, March 17th. Good morning. I made Abe Madkour. Good to be with you today.

I was at a lunch yesterday at a restaurant called Midwood Smokehouse in Charlotte. And over a chopped salad with two other sports business executives, the topic of the Charlotte Hornets and Michael Jordan's ownership came up. Now, talk has been floating for a few months that Jordan may be looking to sell, and the recent Sun's valuation surely intrigued him. The three of us over lunch continue to talk about options for Jordan. Sure enough, seven hours later, my phone was buzzing with the breaking news from Adrian Wojnarowski that Jordan is in talks to sell his majority stake in the franchise to a group led by Hornets minority owner, Gabe Plotkin and Rick Schnall, who owns a minority stake in the Atlanta Hawks.

Now, Michael Jordan has owned a majority stake in the Hornets since 2010. In fact, he took over majority ownership about to this day, 13 years ago. He sold a stake in the Hornets to Plotkin and others in 2020. There were reports that the minority partners were looking to sell their stake, but apparently the limited partners have changed their mind and also brought on a new investor in Schnall. So no deal is reportedly imminent and Jordan is expected to keep a minority stake in the team. But if the sale happens, it would be a big deal. It would leave the NBA without having its longtime star and such a big name and face and the only Black majority owner in the fold.

Now, Forbes has valued the Hornets at $1.7 billion, that was last year. But this team will go for a very good figure. They're close to landing a very team friendly deal for a training complex right across the street from the Uptown Spectrum Center. They are close to a pretty significant renovation of the 17-year-old venue, which is still in very good shape and very active. And the Carolinas and Charlotte in particular are one of the fastest growing areas in America. So there's a lot to like about potentially owning the Hornets.

I think Michael Jordan really lost his luster for ownership. I think he saw how hard it is to win in the NBA. The teams never really won under his watch. They haven't drafted particularly well. They've never had a primetime star. And it's no secret that Michael Jordan seems more smitten with auto racing and NASCAR these days than the NBA. Finally, there is no succession plan here. Michael Jordan and his brother James Jordan, who is actively involved in the franchise, are getting older and no one else is in line to take over the team. So if you look at it, it kind of makes sense in terms of the future ownership of the Charlotte Hornets.

Let's stay with MJ because this weekend at the South by Southwest Film Festival, the film Air will debut, and that is the story of how Michael Jordan, his family, and Nike really revolutionized the shoe business with the launch of the Air Jordans. Amazon will release the movie nationally on April 5th, but again, the opening, the debut is this weekend. Now, Ben Affleck directed the film. He plays Nike CEO, Phil Knight. Matt Damon plays Sonny Vaccaro, who of course was the Nike executive who landed Jordan. Now this film is the first of Affleck and Damon's new production company called Artists Equity. They obtained about $100 million in financing from Gerry Cardinale's investment firm, Red Bird Capital Partners. So that's an interesting fact about the movie and the investors in this movie.

Another interesting fact about the movie? Affleck directed it and never shows Michael Jordan's face during the movie. Viewers will see a body double shot from behind or from a side profile, no images of Michael Jordan directly. So we should have some early reaction to the film on Monday's Buzzcast, but there is a lot of talk about the new film Air.

Let's shift to soccer. FIFA's Gianni Infantino has a new four-year term as president of the Global Soccer Association. Yes, he has his fans. Yes, he has his detractors, but he came out with some major news, very positive news for women's soccer as FIFA will increase the prize money for this year's Women's World Cup to $110 million and provide millions more to the teams in preparation. It vowed to equalize prize money with the men's event by the time the next Woman's World Cup tournament is played. This is a big boost to the women's game and a big, big shot in the arm for FIFA's support of women's soccer.

Infantino stated that the players at this year's Women's World Cup in Australia will be given the exact same conditions that the male players received in Qatar. Now interestingly, he also called on FIFA's partners to treat women's soccer equally. And he specifically called out broadcasters, who offered less money, a lower rights fee to broadcast the Women's World Cup than what they paid for the Men's World Cup. He said that FIFA was stepping up with actions and not just words, but he said, "Unfortunately, this is not the case of everyone across the industry.". So those are some very strong words from the controversial Gianni Infantino, who I'm sure feels emboldened and boosted by his new four-year term in running FIFA.

Moving on, I want to focus on Philadelphia for a minute. First, we know the interest around the Philadelphia Phillies who made the World Series last October and are seeing the benefit. As the Philly season ticket base has grown significantly during the off season, they now have over 15,000 full season ticket equivalence. That's a 50% increase from the base of last year, which was about 10,000. And so they have seen a nice boost in season ticket sales. They're looking to get more consistent attendance at Citizens Bank Park. Last year, the Phillies averaged just over about 28,000 fans. The ballpark's capacity is about 43,000. So you see that they have some room to increase their average attendance. One element that the Phillies are bullish on is they have moved the start time of their weekday games earlier. They now have a 6:40 weekday game start. They believe that should generate better crowds in Philadelphia, but the Phillies seeing some energy around their season ticket sales.

What else is worth watching in Philadelphia is the 76ers pursuit of a new arena. It's generating attention and some controversy in the city as the 76ers want to have their own venue away from the Wells Fargo center and Flyers owner, Comcast Spectacor. You know, it's pretty well documented that there are tensions between the two organizations and the 76ers have been beating the drum for their own arena, a new downtown arena. But many are wondering if Philadelphia needs two sports arenas. And would you want two sports arenas in the same city competing against each other for sponsorship, for luxury sales, just across the board for events? So it's an interesting debate worth following. The 76ers believe they can benefit the community, but there has been real local community opposition to the planned facility, which would cost about $1.3 billion and be located in the city's Chinatown district. There's a long way to go here, but there could be some leverage plays existing between two very powerful ownership groups in one of the nation's top sports markets. And that's why I'm keeping my eye on what's going down in Philadelphia.

Attention entrepreneurs. Looking to get funding for your new great idea? Well, you may want to call on the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks have launched Hawks Ventures. That is a new $50 million venture fund that will invest in early stage startups and businesses. So two primary focuses will be, one, minority in women-led underrepresented businesses, and two, customer-focused businesses around products and services. So what are you doing to really amplify a new product or service? So you see more and more teams looking at this venture approach and funding ideas to reach their local community and help empower underrepresented communities. So Hawks Ventures, a new $50 million venture fund looking to invest in early stage businesses and startups.

And finally, I'm giving you a sneak peek. On Monday, Sports Business Journal will unveil our inaugural rankings of the Best Sports Business Cities. Yes, this list highlights the top 50 cities for businesses operating in and around sports. I think it will provide some really interesting direction for sports business professionals about what cities they may want to work in. Best Sports business Cities will look at markets that have a number of teams and corporate brands, agencies, media companies and vendors. We're looking at cities that have strong hiring and where there's a thriving economic market. We scored cities on three main criteria, opportunity, economic environment, and insights from industry decision makers with a strong understanding of the sports business marketplace. I think this list will really help entrepreneurs and business executives find new markets for their investments in sports. So look for this list, the Best Sports Business Cities launching Monday, and we'll talk about it on Monday's Buzzcast.

So that is your Morning Buzzcast for Friday, March 17th. Happy St. Patty's Day. Reggie, I hope your bracket continues to thrive and we'll talk about that on Monday. I'm Abe Madkour. Hope everybody has a great weekend. Stay healthy. Be good to each other. I'll speak to you on Monday.