Will Your Company’s Next Big Investor be Your Favorite Athlete or Sports Franchise?
MWWR by Ernest Holtzheimer
As cleanup crews sweep up the final remnants of the NFL Draft, the Phillies show potential for a successful season and the NBA and NHL playoffs in full-swing, many people currently have sports on their mind – but what does this have to do with a corporate law blog?
While sports have been a part of water cooler conversation since water coolers were first introduced into corporate office spaces, many franchises and athletes have begun to take that conversation further by becoming heavily involved in the technology sector, and for good reason.
Tech IPOs are going strong this year. Nine technology companies have gone public on US exchanges so far this year, with an aggregate value at an impressive $37.5 billion. This has caused sports franchises (as well as the athletes who play for them) to look beyond ticket and merchandise sales, and into technology investments. In other words, “[t]he modern day sports owner doesn’t just see their franchise as a collection of athletes, but as an asset and a platform to launch other businesses.”
Although this trend has occurred across the country, we are beginning to see a lot of action here in Philadelphia – even with our teams out of the playoffs. The 76ers are leading the way in this effort and were recently named #12 on a list of the Top 25 Most Tech-Savvy Sports Teams in the World. The team has founded a startup accelerator, the Sixers Innovation Lab Crafted by Kimball, which has begun investing in local companies. In starting this accelerator, the Sixers are joining teams like the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Minnesota Vikings, all of which are now sporting some form of accelerator program. The Sixers were also the first U.S. professional sports team to acquire an eSports franchise (more information on the NBA’s involvement in eSports here).
Franchises aren’t the only ones taking note of these potential investment opportunities – athletes are as well. Former Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard recently joined Steve Young, David Robinson, and a growing list of other athletes who are now involved in private equity and venture capital, by joining local venture capital firm, SeventySix Capital, as a partner. SeventySix Capital has recognized that athletes’ interest in this area has expanded and therefore has partnered with sports marketing and management agency Rubicon Talent to acquire an equity stake in the companies and products that Rubicon’s athletes agree to represent (think: rap artist 50 Cent’s deal with Vitamin Water). These opportunities not only provide franchises and athletes with investment opportunities, but also give startups alternatives for funding their businesses.
So, the next time you see your favorite athlete on the street, you may want to consider asking him or her for an investment in your company rather than for an autograph (but be sure to speak with your attorney regarding the regulations applicable to securities offerings first).