Subscription Decline Sends Madison Square Garden Networks on Worst Slide in 4-Year History

MSGN

Madison Square Garden Networks’ (MSGN) – which includes MSG and MSG+ – share price dropped perceptibly (-12.4% to $14.76) on Wednesday August 21st after the company reported subscriber totals and adjusted operating income declined -6.5% YoY and -11% YoY (to $76.4 million) respectively, during fiscal Q4 2018. Cord cutting and the expiration of promotional offers from two unnamed distributors are to blame for the weaker-than-expected results. Wednesday’s sell-off continues a tough year for the regional sports networks. While the S&P 500 is +17% YTD, MSGN shares are languishing down -38% YTD.

The disappointing earnings report comes on the heels of Madison Square Garden’s (MSG) worst day since the networks were spun off four years ago. Word of significant cost overruns on the MSG Sphere project – perhaps as much as $500 million over the $1.2 billion budget – sent shares tumbling -8.75% on the day. The price dropped another -2.3% on Wednesday (to $261.13).

Howie Long-Short: The -6.5% sub decline resulted in $3.3 million worth of lost affiliate revenue. That’s an absurdly high percentage – more than 2x “the broader Pay-TV industry average”, but investors shouldn’t worry about subscribers continuing to flee at that rate. The two companies who reported the expiration of promotional offers during the period experienced subscriber growth over the trailing 12 months.

MSGN is and has been vulnerable since Jim Dolan sold Cablevision to Altice in 2016. As independent networks – as opposed to RSNs backed by Sinclair or Comcast, MSGN lacks the protection needed to ensure widespread carriage. While the networks remain available on that cable system for the time being, it’s worth wondering what happens when their 10-year agreement runs out in 3 months. Altice is a notoriously tough negotiator and has publicly stated a desire to cut programming costs. Failure to come to an agreement with a top 3 cable company in the New York DMA would be a devastating blow to Dolan’s networks. It’s worth mentioning that MSGN has been previously mentioned as a potential acquisition target for Sinclair (SBGI).

Most would assume that having the rights to Knicks and Rangers games would make MSGN a ‘must-have’ for carriers in the tri-state area, but it’s important to remember that RSNs are among the most expensive channels and cable providers have become conscious of keeping costs down with subs on the decline. As for the virtual MVPD’s, with growth in the OTT sector having stalled (most companies were light on sports content, anyway), MSGN has been unable to make up for the legacy MVPD subs lost.

The value of Knicks and Rangers broadcast rights is also relative. New York is a baseball town. The Yankees and Mets draw the highest ratings of the local teams by a wide margin. While the Knicks still have a commanding lead on the Nets, viewership has been on a gradual decline for more than a decade and dropped -42% YoY (to .84 TV HH) in 2018-2019. For some context, the club averaged a 3.31 TV HH rating on MSG in 2011-2012. The Rangers have a passionate fan base, but it doesn’t translate to huge television ratings; there simply aren’t as many hockey fans in the city as there are baseball and basketball fans. The team pulled a .74 TV HH rating (-10% YoY) last season.

Fan Marino: While Howie repeatedly referenced the Knicks and Rangers, it must be noted that MSG+ also carries Devils (.24 TV HH last season), Islanders (.54 TV HH last season) and Sabres games.

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Juventus’ On Field Performance has “Significant Financial Implications” for Shareholders

Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick (last Tues. night) gave Juventus Football Club S.p.A. a 3-0 victory over Atlético Madrid (in the 2nd leg of their round of 16 matchup) and pushed the club through to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal round on aggregate (3-2). CR7’s performance also had “significant financial implications” for the publicly traded Italian football club. Participation in the next round guarantees “The Old Lady” another $18 million in UEFA prize money and ticket sales (team sold a record $6.2 million worth in last round), and should Juventus go on to win the tournament for the 1st time since ’96, the team would stand to take in at least $57 million more ($39 million from UEFA, +/- $18 million in gate receipts & hospitality). JUVE shares climbed by as much as +30% on Wednesday (3.13.19), before closing the day +18%; they’re up +23% ($1.70) since Tuesday morning’s open.

Howie Long-Short: There is a volatility to the share prices of publicly traded European football teams that you won’t find in U.S. sports. Troy Brazell, CEO of Optima Sports Group, explained “while U.S. investors are looking for long-term capital gains, the shareholders of these thinly traded penny stocks are emotional fans looking to capture the excitement associated with being a part of a winner.” 

Publicly traded European football teams are also owned by fewer individuals than a common stock like MSG (Knicks/Rangers) or RCI (Maple Leafs/Raptors), so their shares are going to be more susceptive to the whims of the irrational emotional investor. JUVE’s strong rally has been super-charged by the low expectations investors had heading into the 2nd leg last week, but historically speaking the biggest fluctuations in the market come after a bad loss; investors simply become more risk adverse after losing.

Juventus’ value has increased by more than $225 million since the Borsa Italiana opened on Wednesday, +/- 150% more than Juventus would claim in prize money if it were to win the tournament, but that doesn’t mean the share price is now overvalued. Troy says that winning the Champions League would boost sponsorship revenues and positively “impact everything from ticket sales to merchandising and television revenues moving forward.”

Winning on the field isn’t the only way for a publicly traded European football team to move the share price. “The introduction of a new stadium, signing of a star player or the announcement of a high-profile match against a team that would not normally appear on the schedule can all excite the masses; and remember, these are global fan bases.” JUVE shares are +140% since the team acquired Ronaldo.

Round of 16 results also impacted the share prices of the other publicly traded teams participating in the Champions League. AFC Ajax (AJAX) and Manchester United (MANU) shares climbed +8% and +2% respectively, as both teams advanced to the quarterfinal round. Borussia Dortmund (BVB) shareholders weren’t as lucky. The stock price has fallen -10% since the club was bounced by Tottenham Hotspur.

Fan Marino: Some Champions League team executives are said to be meeting with UEFA officials tomorrow to discuss “radical changes” to the league format – including the introduction of a promotion/relegation system (4 teams/year) that would benefit the “biggest and richest clubs and make it harder for smaller teams to qualify.” As it currently stands, participation is based on where clubs finish within their respective domestic leagues during the prior season; a format that has resulted in Arsenal, Manchester United and AC Milan all failing to qualify in recent seasons. The league is also said to be considering moving games from mid-week to weekends, a move that would encroach on the territory of the national leagues. Needless to say, Richard Scudamore (EPL) and Javier Tebas (La Liga) are not supportive of the ideas. No changes are expected to be implemented before the 2024 season – last month the ECA and UEFA agreed to extend the league’s Memorandum of Understanding for 5 years.

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Dolan Open to Selling Knicks, Rangers, but Little Interest in Franchises Alone

In an “unplugged” interview with ESPN’s Ian O’Connor, New York Knicks (and Rangers) owner James Dolan acknowledged that while “nobody in my family wants to sell” the teams, that as “the head of a public company” he has “a responsibility to the shareholders”; implying he would part the pro sports franchises if he were to receive a satisfactory offer for them. Dolan noted that he has entertained conversations about the prospects of selling the Knicks and that “the price point discussed was around $5 billion”, though no “bona fide offer” has ever been received. The Madison Square Garden Corporation has since released a statement looking to extinguish rumors that Dolan is actively looking to sell the NBA and/or NHL franchise, saying that “there are no plans to sell the Knicks or the Rangers.”

Howie Long-Short: Dolan and his 5 siblings “like being owners” but their preference to retain the Knicks is financially driven, it’s their belief the family’s trophy asset “gets more valuable every year” and “that (trend) will continue to go on.” They haven’t been wrong up to this point, at least not if you put stock in Forbes’ valuations; the publication has estimated that the team’s value has risen from $1.4 billion in ’14 to $3.6 billion in ’18 and I’m confident they’re right about the team’s valuation moving forward too. As the value of media rights continues to rise, so too will the worth of the league’s clubs.

The mercurial Knicks owner downplayed the value of the Knicks and Rangers as businesses, pointing out that team revenues (only) experience “single-digit growth. There’s really not any way to get it to go beyond that.”

I asked Scott Rosner, Academic Director of the Sports Management Program at Columbia University, why Dolan would look to downplay his pro sports teams as businesses?

Scott: As a revenue business what he said is accurate, the NBA is a mature business; revenue growth in a good year is high single digits. He didn’t really address the valuation part of it, other than to say that the team’s value keeps going up. But, much like a stock price, that only matters if he plans to sell; and he’s made it clear that is not the case.  

Back in June, it was rumored that MSG was considering spinning off its sports franchises from its entertainment properties; a move many assumed was a precursor to the eventual sale of the teams despite Dolan’s denials. The news sent MSG shares skyrocketing to an all-time high ($330), but the excitement certainly appears premature. There’s a reason why Dolan has never received more than cursory interest in either of his marquee franchises. As Scott Rosner explained, it has less to do with the asking price and more to do with where the teams will play.

Scott: As a buyer, you would want to buy everything; the horizontal and vertical pieces. You would want to buy the teams and you would want to buy the buildings. Having that adds value to the overall transaction; sold piecemeal, the teams are far less valuable. Dolan has indicated he’s willing to sell the clubs, but he’s never said he’s willing to sell the arena. It’s always better to be a landlord than a tenant, particularly if you’re going to be spending $5 billion on the team playing in it.   

In addition to the Knicks and Rangers, Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) owns the New York Liberty. However, unlike the family’s prized assets, Dolan and Co. are looking to unload the WNBA franchise; the club announced it was seeking a seller back in November ‘17. That’s because Dolan doesn’t believe he knows “how to be successful with the Liberty”; despite their best marketing efforts, the club has been unable to sell seats.

Fan Marino: At $3.6 billion, the Knicks are the NBA’s most valuable franchise and Forbes pegs the Rangers at $1.55 billion (+3% YoY), making it the most valuable NHL club for a 4th straight season. If early season attendance is an indicator though, there are serious doubts the Rangers will make it 5 straight years come 2019.

The NHL is a “gate driven league”, so a decline in attendance will put a dent in team revenue totals (if there isn’t an increase in the ticket price to offset it) and while the Rangers are drawing 600 fewer fans/game, the league’s 2nd most valuable team (Toronto, $1.35 billion) has managed to continue its sell out streak through the season’s first 15 home games; combine that with the fact that the Maple Leafs valuation rose at a faster rate (+4% YoY) than New York’s did in 2018 and its apparent Canada’s most popular club is closing the gap on the #1 spot.

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MSG to Spin-Off Sports Franchises

MSG

Madison Square Garden Co. has filed with the SEC to spin-off its professional sports franchises into a new publicly traded company, with its live entertainment remaining under the MSG ticker. The division of assets (expected to be completed in H1 ’19) will “enable investors to more clearly evaluate each company’s assets and future potential, while providing both companies with increased strategic flexibility.” The filing reiterated the company does not intend on selling either of its marquee sports franchises (see: Knicks, Rangers), though it plans on unloading the WNBA’s New York Liberty.

Howie Long-Short: We’ve been waiting for this shoe to drop since the rumors first started flying in June. Upon the deal closing, MSG will consist of Madison Square Garden Arena, the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Beacon Theatre, the Chicago Theatre, the Wang Theatre, the L.A. Forum, the Radio City Rockettes and the Christmas Spectacular, MSG’s booking business (think: college basketball, boxing), their majority stakes in Tao Group (62.5%) and Boston Calling (a festival/concert promoter), the company’s JVs (Azoff-MSG Entertainment and Tribeca Enterprises) and the planned Sphere projects in Las Vegas and London. “New” MSG will own 1/3 of the shares in the newly formed sports company and will retain $1 billion in cash. Legacy shareholders will control 2/3 of MSG Sports. Shares declined -3% on the news, closing at $300.62 on Friday 10.5.18.

In August, the company reported the percentage of revenue generated by its sports teams had dropped from 60% (last 3 years) to 50% in fiscal 2018, indicating Dolan’s diversification plan is working. MSG shares are up +42.5% YTD.

Fan Marino: The newly traded public company will be comprised of the New York Knicks (and their G-League affiliate the Westchester Knicks), the New York Rangers (and their AHL affiliate the Hartford Wolf Pack), their majority stake in Counter Logic Gaming, Knicks Gaming and a training facility in Greenburgh, NY. Dolan intends on running both companies, so fans shouldn’t expect many (if any) changes to team operations.

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With Stadium Project Approval Secured, Seattle Close to Landing an NHL Franchise

KeyArena

The Seattle city council unanimously approved a $700 million renovation to KeyArena, paving the way for an NHL expansion franchise to call the Emerald City home. With approval for the arena’s redevelopment secured, the David Bonderman/Jerry Bruckheimer Group will present their bid for the league’s 32nd franchise, to its executive committee, next week (10.2.18); approval is expected, though a formal vote won’t occur before December. The Bonderman/Bruckheimer group, which would like to begin construction within 60 days, is targeting ’20-’21 as the club’s inaugural season; though ’21-’22 may be more realistic, with a player lockout pending in ‘20.

Howie Long-Short: KeyArena was the home of the Seattle SuperSonics. It was Howard Schultz’s inability to secure $220 million in tax-payer funded upgrades for the building, that led to the team’s sale (to Clay Bennett) and ultimately its relocation to Oklahoma City.

The Seattle Center arena renovation project will be privately financed and developed by the Oak View Group, which isn’t content with placing an NHL franchise in the building; they plan to bring the NBA back to Seattle too (Councilwoman Sally Bagshaw said she expects the city to have an NBA franchise by 2020). The reigning WNBA champions (Storm), who also call KeyArena home, will play at the University of Washington while the building is being revamped.

Led by Tim Lieweke, Oak View Group (an entertainment & sports facilities company) is backed by Azoff MSG Entertainment; a JV between Irving Azoff’s management firm and MSG. Earlier this year, the company received a $100 million cash infusion from the P.E. firm Silver Lake for an undisclosed stake in the company; capital Oak View Group is using to fund its “massive growth spurt”.

There are 2 other ways to play the Seattle Center arena project, Skanska (a Swedish multinational construction/development co.) and AECOM Hunt (an American multinational engineering/design/construction firm) have been hired to oversee the project. Skanska trades on the Copenhagen Stock exchange under the symbol (CPH: SKA B) or OTC under the symbol SKSBF. AECOM Hunt (a subsidiary of AECOM, component of S&P 400) trades on the NYSE under the symbol ACM.

Fan Marino: It’s been more than 10 years since the Sonics played their last home game at KeyArena and while Seattle sports fans remain starved for an NBA franchise, they’re more than prepared to support hockey in the Pacific NW; the Bonderman/Bruckheimer Group received more than 33,000 deposits (at $500 or $1,000) for season ticket packages the day they went on sale.

While on the topic of Seattle sporting venues, it’s been announced that the town’s baseball team will remain in Safeco Field for another couple of decades (their initial 20-year lease was set to expire at the end of this season). Back in May, the Mariners reached a deal with the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District on a new 25-year lease, with two 3-year options, that could keep the club in stadium through the 2049 season. The M’s will invest +/- $650 million into the ballpark and public facilities district over the course of the lease agreement (see: rent, stadium improvements, maintenance/operations, taxes, revenue sharing and a neighborhood improvement fund).

Fun Fact: Did you know that Seattle is currently the largest U.S. market without a winter pro sports franchise?

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Comcast Preparing to Divest 22 Fox RSNs, To Submit 2nd All-Cash Bid by July 27th  

Comcast

Comcast (CMCSA) is reportedly lining up buyers for 21st Century Fox’s (FOXA) regional sports networks to alleviate anti-trust concerns, as it prepares a bid that would be favorable to The Walt Disney Company’s (DIS) $71 billion dollar offer (cash and stock) for FOXA film & TV assets. CMCSA is open to divesting all 22 RSNs, but believes just 8 overlap with the existing Comcast sports footprint. Reuters is reporting that the company has held conversations with publicly-traded buyout firms Apollo Global Management (APO) and Blackstone Group (BX). Just 2 weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Justice approved DIS’ bid after reaching a settlement with the mouse house to rid itself of the regional sports networks.

Howie Long-Short: It’s been assumed that the RSNs will fetch $20 billion+ (Comcast’s first bid placed a $24 billion valuation on them), so selling them off will help Comcast coffers as the company prepares to submit a 2nd all-cash bid (no dollar amounts given). FOXA shareholders are scheduled to vote on the DIS bid on July 27th, Comcast will submit their bid prior.

Rumors of P.E. firms taking down the RSNs is relatively surprising as most of the discussions surrounding potential landing spots having focused on telecom and media companies. Everyone from Amazon (AMZN) and YouTube (GOOGL) to AT&T (T) and Dish Network (DISH) has been mentioned.

I asked T.K. Gore, sports media consultant, advisor and professor, for his thoughts on who lands the RSNs?

T.K.: The RSN world is a tricky business and experience — coupled with deep pockets — matters. Look for groups like Liberty Media and AT&T to get involved given their experiences.

MSG is among the companies that has been associated with having interest in the regional networks. James Dolan has said that he’d be interested in acquiring the assets “at the right price”, noting they’re highly profitable now but a “slow, declining revenue stream.”

Fan Marino: The 22 RSNs collectively control exclusive broadcast rights to 44 NFL, NBA, MLB & NHL franchises, including teams in Detroit, Southern California, Dallas, Cleveland and Miami. The YES Network is the most valuable of the lot, worth an estimated $4 billion; the Yankees are likely to re-acquire that network.

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MSG Considering Spinning Off Sports Teams, Shares Hit All-Time High

MSG

Madison Square Garden (MSG) is considering a tax-free spinoff of the Knicks, Rangers and other pro sports franchises (to be known as MSG Sports) from Madison Square Garden Arena, Radio City Music Hall and the balance of their concert-hosting and entertainment-venue operations. The proposed plan would give legacy shareholders 66% of MSG Sports. MSG would retain the remaining 33%. No timetable has been issued for the board to issue a decision. MSG shares hit an all-time high on Thursday, closing at $303.29.

Howie Long-Short: Should a split occur, MSG Sports would include the Knicks, Rangers, Westchester Knicks (G-League), Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL) and the Liberty (WNBA), though the team has been exploring a sale for that franchise on and off since November. The newly-formed entity would also include Knicks Gaming (NBA 2K League) and Counter Logic Gaming (esports).

MSG would hold on to Madison Square Garden and the Hulu Theatre, Radio City Music Hall, Beacon Theatre, the Forum in Inglewood, the Chicago Theatre and the Wang Theatre (Boston). The company’s hospitality group, a music festival producer, interests in Oak View Group development projects, stake in Tao Group (62.5%) and $1 billion in cash would also remain under the MSG umbrella.

JWS wrote about the need for a potential spinoff back in October and we again discussed how MSG’s market cap was lower than Forbes value of just the Knicks and Rangers in February; so, we’re on board with a spinoff that would bring full value of company’s assets to shareholders. We noted in October that there was speculation a spinoff could increase the value of the company by upwards of +25%; reports of the potential plan occurred on Wednesday evening, shares have skyrocketed +13.9% since.

Fan Marino: Sorry Knicks Fans, a spinoff doesn’t mean that James Dolan would finally relinquish control of the struggling NBA franchise; Dolan intends on serving as executive chairman and CEO of both companies.

Knicks fan looking for some good news? Kentucky HC John Calipari believes 1st round selection Kevin Knox is the league’s next Jason Tatum; “a tough, a skilled, long, tough player who’s a future All-Star.

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Wenn Digital, Oak View Group Introduce Sports Photography Digital Rights Management Platform

KodakOne

Wenn Digital and Oak View Group have partnered to bring the Image (and video) Rights Management Platform KODAKOne and its associated cryptocurrency KODAKCOIN to six U.S. sporting venues. Built on blockchain technology, the to-be launched KODAKOne platform will enable fans (+ professional photographers, teams and venues) attending games at those venues to “upload, register and share their work, as well as be compensated for it.” KODAKCoin can be used as a payment for licensing or sale and together Wenn Digital and the six Oak View Group venues will work to build a platform that facilitates in-venue cryptocurrency transactions.

Howie Long-Short: Protecting live event photography rights is a real problem. Photographers have long struggled to prove ownership of their work, have experienced copyright violations and have had difficulties collecting royalties, so KODAKOne looks to be a practical application of blockchain technology within the sports world.

Wenn Digital, which operates the KODAKOne platform and KODAKCoin cryptocurrency, licensed the KODAK brand name for the digital rights management platform and associated token. It’s been reported that KODAK will receive up to $5 million (including $750,000 in cash and $1.5 million in Wenn Digital common stock) for use of their name. On May 21st, having already closed on $10 million in pre-sale investment capital, Wenn Digital launched a Simple Agreement for Future Tokens (due to securities laws) to raise the balance of a $50 million round. As for KODAK (KODK), when the company announced it was pivoting to blockchain back in January, shares rose 272% (peaking at $11.55); though the initial excitement has since been replaced with doubt, shares are up +68% YTD ($5.20).

Back in March, private equity firm Silver Lake Partners invested $100 million in Oak View Group, the entertainment and sports facilities company founded by Irving Azoff/Tim Leiweke. Currently 27 stadiums and arenas use Oak View Group for booking, sponsorship or security services; though Leiweke envisions adding 6-8 more before the end of 2018 (so, there’s plenty of room for KODAKOne to grow with the company). The company acknowledges it’s “going through a massive growth spurt”, but insists it’s with good reason; the NFL, NBA and NHL are “at their healthiest levels ever” and concerts have become increasingly profitable. You can play KODAKOne through Madison Square Garden Company (MSG). Azoff MSG entertainment, a joint venture between Irving Azoff’s management firm and MSGhas invested in Oak View Group.

Fan Marino: For those wondering, AT&T Center (Spurs), Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Pacers), Golden 1 Center (Kings), Talking Stick Resort Arena (Suns), Xcel Energy Center (Wild) and Prudential Center (Devils) are the six venues that KODAKOne plans to launch with.

In other in-stadium news, the NBA has partnered with 15 Seconds of Fame (15SOF) to bring fans in all 29 NBA cities video of their videoboard/live TV appearances while at games. Using facial recognition software, the application identifies the fan and sends them video of the moment. 15SOF is a great idea, but the execution has been terrible. Fans don’t care about the content of the video (waving, dancing etc.), they want video showing their appearance on the jumbotron. In other words, 15SOF should be sending fans wide angle video that reflects the stadium’s atmosphere at that moment, as opposed to the video they’re currently pulling out of context. Kobe Bryant has invested in 15SOF, but there are no ways for our readers to.

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A.S. Roma Sign’s Massive Shirt Sponsorship Deal, Share Price Drops with Semi-Final Leg 1 Loss

Roma

A.S. Roma has announced the largest sponsorship deal in club history, a 3-year pact (begins in ’18-’19) that will make Qatar Airways the club’s official shirt sponsor through the ’20-’21 season. The deal, worth $48.7 million/season (or +/- 2.5x the NBA’s most valuable patch partnership), is among the largest ever signed by an Italian futbol club. The logo of Qatar’s state-owned airline will “adorn the front of the first team’s shirts” and the company will serve as the top flight Italian soccer side’s “Main Global Partner.” Qatar Airways becomes just the 7th kit sponsor in the club’s 90-year history; the first team has played without a shirt sponsor since the ’14 season.

Howie Long-Short: Limited shares of A.S. Roma trade on the Borsa Italiana under the symbol ASR (OTC: ASRAF). Interestingly, the share price over the last 30 days has mirrored the first team’s success (or lack thereof) on the pitch. When the club stunned Barcelona (overcoming a 4-1 loss in Leg 1) on April 10th to advance to the Uefa Champions League semi-finals, the share price jumped 22% to $.73; by Tuesday morning it had risen to $.82. The team dropped the first leg of the semi-finals (to Liverpool, 5-2) on Tuesday afternoon and the share price began to dip in after-hours trading; by Wednesday’s close, shares were down -14.7% (to $.70) from Tuesday’s high.

While stock performance has little correlation with wins and losses in North America (see: MSG +48% since Oct. ’15, Knicks winning percentage over same span is .374, RCI hit a 5-year low during the Blue Jay’s first trip to the playoffs since ’93 in ‘15), it requires a closer look in Europe. Like Roma, MANU is having a strong season on the pitch ranked 2nd in the EPL standings; since the club’s August 12th EPL season opener, shares are up 14% (to $19.10). JohnWallStreet will take a deeper dive the correlation between on-field performance and the share price of publicly traded European clubs, in the coming weeks.

Fan Marino: ASR is playing in the Uefa Champions League semi-finals for the first time in 34 years, but the club is going to need a dominant performance (at least a 3-goal victory) on May 2nd (2nd leg), to qualify for the final. Of course, had the team not scored 2 late goals (they trailed 5-0 in Leg 1); all hope would have dissipated. For those wondering, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are competing in the other semi-final; Real Madrid won the 1st leg 2-1 on Wednesday afternoon.

U.S. soccer fans will have a chance to catch A.S. Roma (+ Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich) live in action this summer. Beginning on July 20th, 18 of the world’s top club teams will compete in the 6th International Champions Cup presented by Heineken. The event’s 27 matches are spread across 3 continents (North America, Europe and Asia), with 17 on U.S. soil; Roma will play in East Rutherford (NJ), San Diego and Dallas. You can find full schedule and ticket info, here.

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Oak View Group Raises $100 Million to Pursue “Huge Bets”

Oak View Group

Private equity firm Silver Lake Partners has invested $100 million for an undisclosed minority stake in Oak View Group (OVG), the entertainment and sports facilities company founded by Irving Azoff/Tim Leiweke. Oak View Group, which develops venues and provides consulting services, raised the capital to pursue “huge bets” outside of sports (i.e. music venue in Austin) and to expand internationally (see: Europe, Asia). Currently 27 stadiums and arenas use OVG for booking, sponsorship or security services; though Leiweke envisions adding 6-8 more before the end of 2018. The company acknowledges it’s “going through a massive growth spurt”, but insists it’s with good reason; the NFL, NBA and NHL are “at their healthiest levels ever” and concerts have become increasingly profitable.

Howie Long-Short: Rumors indicate that Silver Lake Partners and Jim Dolan, the Chairman of MSG, are working on a plan that would enable Dolan to eventually buy Madison Square Garden (and perhaps the Knicks and/or Rangers). As the story goes, Silver Lake Partners learned of the investment opportunity in OVG from Jim Dolan, “indicating Silver Lake has been speaking to Dolan.” While I’m not sure how Josh Kosman at the NY Post made the leap between the parties “speaking” and Silver Lake helping Dolan take MSG private, the connection between the two is apparent. Silver Lake Partners has taken an activist position in MSG (6.3%), while Dolan/MSG backs OVG.

Fan Marino: Oak View Group won the rights to redevelop Seattle’s Key Arena (they’re fully financing the deal, no public funding), to house the city’s new NHL franchise (while not yet announced, relocation or expansion is inevitable). Seattle may not be known as a hockey town, but within a 36-hour period in early May, 33,000 people issued deposits ($500 or $1,000) for the rights to purchase season tickets to an unnamed franchise that does not yet exist. As for the team name, OVG filed trademarks on these 13 ideas; Cougars, Eagles, Emeralds, Evergreens, Firebirds, Kraken, Rainiers, Renegades, Sea Lions, Seals, Sockeyes, Totems and Whales. If the goal is to sell merchandise, Kraken must be the choice.

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