Early Entrants: Vol. XVI – Report Jay-Z Set to Purchase ‘Significant Ownership Interest’ in NFL Team “Wrong”

Editor Note: ‘Early Entrants’ is a series of sports business ‘rumblings’ before the news breaks.

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Report Jay-Z Set to Purchase ‘Significant Ownership Interest’ in NFL Team “Wrong”

On Friday afternoon, TMZ dropped what would be a bombshell of a report – if true. The celebrity rag reported that Jay-Z is set to purchase ‘significant ownership interest in an NFL franchise. However, in our search to identify the team, multiple sources questioned the story’s validity. The president of one NFL club told JohnWallStreet that he flat out “thinks the report is wrong.” He said he hadn’t “heard one word about [Jay-Z buying into the league]. Maybe [Jay-Z] agreed [in principle] with someone, but [ownership transactions] get vetted and approved via the league” and that process certainly hasn’t taken place yet.”

He also pointed out that “[league rules] would force [Jay-Z] to give up the [Roc Nation] agency (which doesn’t seem to make sense)” and then there is still the financial aspect to consider. “The Falcons recently sold 10% for $300 million… not sure Jay is writing that kind of check and I don’t think the NFL would have done the deal with Roc Nation if he was ultimately going to be a team owner.” At a minimum, TMZ’s report is “very premature.” If it is true, New England is the club; Robert Kraft brokered the recently announced partnership between the league and Jay-Z’s company.

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Executives at NFL League Office “Don’t Love” Alliance with Jay-Z, Roc Nation

Speaking of the controversial (at least among players) deal that makes Jay-Z’s agency the ‘official live music entertainment strategists’ of the NFL, JohnWallStreet has heard that “executives at the league [office] don’t love it”; no surprise considering it was pushed through by Kraft and Commissioner Roger Goodell without a vote “by the broader group [of owners].” Questions remain about “how it will actually work”, if there’s any real “teeth” to a partnership being touted as a social justice initiative and why the league “didn’t turn to LiveNation for content given its relationship with Ticketmaster.” One source with knowledge of negotiations said LiveNation sought out the opportunity, but was rebuffed by the league. Understandably, CEO Michael Rapino “was pissed” to learn of the league’s alliance with Jay-Z.

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Celtics Looking to Replace GE on Uniform

The Mavericks have publicly parted ways with patch sponsor 5miles, but Dallas isn’t the only NBA franchise looking to replace a partner logo on their game jersey. Sources tell JohnWallStreet that it’s well-known within agency circles that the Celtics are shopping the real estate General Electric occupied the last two seasons. In fact, they are telling prospective sponsors that it can be had as soon as this upcoming season. JWS founder Corey Leff has more on both of those deals, as part of a deeper dive on the NBA’s patch program, in the newest issue of Sports Business Journal.

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Scary Crash Likely Ends Pocono’s Run on IndyCar Circuit

Driver Justin Wilson died from injuries suffered racing at Ponoco Raceway in 2015 and a violent crash at the track nearly took the life of Robert Wickens last year (he continues to rehab from spinal injuries and has not raced since), so there were safety concerns surrounding the oval – for open-wheel driving – heading into Sunday’s race. The lack of an agreement between the racing series and the privately held venue beyond 2019 has only added to the speculation about the track’s future – or lack thereof – on the North American circuit. A scary five car wreck (everyone seems to be OK) on first lap of Sunday’s ABCSupply 500 sounds as if it sealed the track’s fate. The owner of one team told JohnWallStreet (shortly after the crash) there is a “high likelihood that IndyCar won’t be back at Pocono.

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Rule 40 Prevents Olympic Athletes from Cashing in During Games

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IOC bylaws designed to provide exclusivity to official IOC sponsors (paying a reported $100 million over 4 years, or more), effectively prevent Olympic athletes from monetizing their own likeness; both during the Games and the days leading up to and following competition (Feb 1-Feb 28). Violations of Rule 40, the specific regulation that forbids the unauthorized public use of athlete names, images or reference to their Olympic performance in commercial advertisements, are subject to litigation. For reference purposes, GE, Coca-Cola (KO), Procter and Gamble (PG) and Visa (V) are among the official worldwide sponsors of the Pyeongchang Winter Oympics.

Howie Long-Short: Despite the staggering dollars the IOC earns from its official sponsors, the organization managed to lose money in 2017; $99 million after adjustments. Though, the figure lacks significance in a non-Games year. The organization saw an increase in sponsorship income ($493.2 million) relative to 2016 ($410 million) and a drastic rise when compared with the same stage, in the last Olympic cycle ($141.5 million).

Fan Marino: Savvy Tinder users are altering their location to Pyeongchang, to find love…in the notoriously sexually-charged, Olympic Village. Tinder Passport, a feature that allows paying users to change their location (so they can connect with people anywhere), has seen a 1,850% increase in “passporting” to the Olympic Villages. While overall usage (+348%), right swipes (+565%) and matches (+644%) are all up too, parents of Olympians should rest assured; organizers have arranged for an Olympic record 37 condoms per athlete, at the Pyeongchang Games.

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