SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: September 18, 2023

Episode Summary

Blank's check secures Atlanta's big soccer victory; Why Goldman Sachs is leaning into sports; Pressure squarely on Sam Kennedy to get the Sox turned around.

Episode Notes

Blank's check secures Atlanta's big soccer victory; Why Goldman Sachs is leaning into sports; Pressure squarely on Sam Kennedy to get the Sox turned around.

Episode Transcription

Abe Madkour:

I hope to see many of you in St. Louis this week for our drive conference. We have more than 525 people attending. The weather looks great all week. We will have great content, taking two games and visit three sports venues. If you are here, I expect you to come up and say hello. And this is your Morning Buzzcast for Monday, September 18th. Good morning. I'm Abe Madkour, hope everybody is doing well.

A big, big win for the city of Atlanta, as U.S. Soccer chose the Atlanta Metro area to be home of its headquarters and its first ever National Training Center. Thanks in part to a $50 million contribution from Falcons and United owner Arthur Blank. So the federation has been based in Chicago since 1991, but now they will go to Atlanta. US Soccer chose the Atlanta area over Cary, North Carolina, who was runner up. While Blank's support was obviously critical, so was the fact that Atlanta is home to one of U.S. Soccer's biggest sponsors. Yes, Coca-Cola, and the company also played a key role in bringing the federation to the area. The National Training Center will be significant. It will serve as a central hub for players, coaches, and referees. All 27 of U.S. Soccer's national teams will use that facility. Also, the airport and accessibility of Atlanta was critical.

U.S. Soccer has not selected a specific site for the headquarters or training center, but they have narrowed the search down to two. U.S. Soccer, CEO and Secretary General, JT Baston, is leading the site selection process with help from advisory firm, Deloitte. A final decision on the site is expected in January, but the bottom line here, a very, very big move by the city of Atlanta, who has long said they want to be seen as the home of soccer in the United States. Bringing us Soccer's headquarters and its first ever national training center to the area is certainly a step in the right direction.

If you need more evidence that sports team ownership is an interesting investment for the super wealthy, well, here you go. Goldman Sachs is creating a sports franchise unit within its investment banking division. So it will have a whole division working across Goldman Sachs to pitch wealthy clients on investing in teams and stadiums. And not just at the pro level, but also at the minor league level. Goldman Sachs will pitch clients on owning a percentage of a team or buying an entire team outright. So with the limited supply of teams and the vanity at play here, this seems like a natural for Goldman Sachs to build up this part of their offering. Bottom line, right now, sports is hot, sports is sexy.

Sports is seeing an incredible valuation and return, so Goldman wants to even lean in further. Goldman's new sports franchise team will be led by Greg Carey, who is well known in sports business circles. He's chairman of Goldman's Public Sector and Infrastructure Group. And Carey will be joined by Dave Dase, who runs the southeast region for Goldman's Investment Bank, and also is quite well known in sports business circles. So Goldman Sachs, again, leaning even further into sports team ownership and offerings.

Let's stay in the sports finance space because in a good story for NASCAR, Spire Motorsports has acquired Live Fast Motorsports' charter for next season, at a cost of approximately $40 million. So Spire Motorsports will become now, a three-car team heading into next season. But the big news that had people talking over the weekend was the price of this charter. Remember these charters launched about seven years ago, 2016, and people wondered how they would be valued because it was essentially an estimated franchise valuation for these race car teams. But they have increased in value over the years and in a good indication of rising valuations across sports, the approximately $40 million price paid for Live Fast would represent the highest for a charter since the NASCAR charters were instituted prior to the '16 season.

So it seems to be a very healthy indicator for the sport of NASCAR racing, team owners will love this. I'm sure Steve Phelps, Jim France, Lisa France Kennedy, will love seeing this valuation because their goal is to see these charters increasing in value, and right now at $40 million that Spire's reportedly paying, that would represent an all time high for a charter acquisition.

Let's shift to baseball. The future leadership of the Boston Red Sox is a story that so many of my sources are talking about. And so much is really unknown, after the Red Sox fired Chaim Bloom as Chief Baseball Officer late last week. I'm a pretty frequent listener of Boston Sports Talk radio and I'll just say the energy and enthusiasm isn't very high or isn't very positive around the Red Sox. And this is a team that could have its third last place finish in four years, and all eyes now are on CEO Sam Kennedy. Many of the Buzzcast listeners know Sam Kennedy. He's incredibly well-regarded and well-liked, but the pressure is clearly on him to make the right move and turn this around. As the Red Sox hired Chaim Bloom, because he was really the only candidate they interviewed following their firing of Dave Dombrowski, in 2019, this time Sam Kennedy said he expects a broader search this go around. Will they go with a president of baseball operations? Will they go with a first time head of a department? Will they go with a veteran? Will they have a traditional GM? All those options seem to be on the table.

Bigger question, what will be the philosophy of ownership? Will John Henry, Tom Werner, will they okay the increase in payroll, or will they want to stay under this competitive balance tax and build the farm system like they were doing under Chaim Bloom? If that's a strategy, if that's the strategy that won't sit well with the locals in New England. Sam Kennedy knows the big club needs to turn it around because he said, right now they are focused on winning at the big league level. This is still the Boston Red Sox. It will still be a very appealing job. A lot of the hard decisions have already been made by Chaim Bloom. The farm system seems to be better, but I will say this, there is a lot of apathy around this team and as little enthusiasm for the Red Sox as I can ever recall. Ticket sales this year are down 9% from 2019, and Sam Kennedy and company, they have to feel some urgency. And I'm sure, Sam Kennedy and company feel the urgency to be competitive immediately and get back into the postseason.

Shifting to the NFL, you have two Monday Night Football games tonight. There are double-headers in both Week 2 and Week 3, and The Athletic's Richard Deitsch reported that ESPN and ABC will alternate start times to get data on viewer interest and viewer habits, and they anticipate using that data to allow them to make better or more informed business decisions. For example, they will review if it's better to start the evening's first game on ABC or ESPN, and make decisions based on this data going forward. So tonight, Monday night, you will see the Saints at Carolina on ESPN and ESPN2, starting at 7:15. You'll see Browns, Steelers on ABC starting at 8:15. So the games will overlap. So expect to see more look-ins in between the games. Look to see more coverage between the two games going on. So you'll see a lot more apparent synergy and reporting as the two games are running in parallel. We will see how this goes tonight, Monday night, because we'll see this feature again next Monday with two games in prime time.

And finally, let's end with this. We will be at City Park here in St. Louis on Wednesday night. St. Louis City SC will play LAFC. This is a big matchup between two of the best teams in MLS. I know many are excited to see the game and the new facility. It seats around 22,000 is capacity, we'll give you a full update. Meanwhile, another MLS facility is becoming the hub of the latest mixed-use development, as FC Cincinnati is seeking approval from city officials to build a pretty significant development just north of TQL Stadium, that will represent one of the biggest mixed-use and entertainment areas in the city of Cincinnati. So they're really looking to develop that area around TQL Stadium and this topic, around mixed-use and facility development, will be a consistent theme over the next three days, here in St. Louis.

My colleague, Austin Karp, and I will be on the ground. We are eager to offer you highlights, and sights, and sounds of drive from St. Louis all week. And so that is your morning Buzzcast for Monday, September 18th. I'm Abe Madkour, thanks for listening to the Buzzcast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.