Americas Bulletin: LA’s sweet Olympics deal; MLS comes of age - again; WME | IMG gets busy and more

SportsPro's weekly Americas Bulletin, bringing you the latest news and talking points from the business of sport in the Americas.

Americas Bulletin: LA’s sweet Olympics deal; MLS comes of age - again; WME | IMG gets busy and more

A “win-win-win situation” is how Thomas Bach termed it, and how right he could prove to be. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) president, an eternal optimist if ever there was one, had been frustrated that the outdated, costly, lengthy, vote-based pre-Agenda 2020 Olympic bidding process produced “too many losers”, but the German can now rest assured that a good helping of money and a simple behind-closed-doors arrangement is all it really takes to safeguard the future of the Games - and, best of all, put smiles on faces from Los Angeles to Paris.

Monday’s long-rumoured confirmation that LA will get the 2028 Olympics in exchange for stepping aside and letting the French capital take 2024 is undoubtedly a sweet deal for all involved. Paris, of course, claimed the centenary Games it so craved, LA mayor Eric Garcetti and his all-star cast of all-American Olympic cheerleaders achieved their dream of securing hefty financial concessions and advance funding for youth projects, and the IOC was able to keep everybody, not least its president, heartwarmingly happy.

One IOC member who was certainly chuffed to see the true spirit of Olympism take its course in a timely, amicable fashion was St Lucia’s always-honest, worth-a-follow yet clearly decision-shy Richard Peterkin. On Tuesday, Peterkin tweeted this, along with a picture of himself posing alongside Paris bid chief Tony Estanguet:

Meanwhile, in a week of deals-that-require-double-takes on both sides of the Atlantic, Major League Soccer (MLS) put pen to paper on a six-year renewal with Adidas worth a whopping US$700 million. Yes, 700 million big ones. The agreement, announced shortly before Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Game in Chicago, is by some distance the largest commercial partnership in the burgeoning league’s 21-year history, and the latest in a lengthening string of neon-encrusted signs that soccer in North America has indisputably come of age.

At an average of nearly US$117 million per year, the new Adidas deal sees MLS leapfrog the National Hockey League (NHL) in terms of yearly apparel rights fees, and even come within touching distance of the juggernaut that is the National Basketball Association (NBA) at a time when world soccer’s oft-criticised pariah is preparing to expand again. All that remains now is for MLS executives to press home their ascendancy by securing a similarly staggering uplift in their US$90 million a year domestic broadcast income. If only they had a ludicrous offer of, say, US$4 billion over ten years on the table…

Wednesday's MLS All-Star Game at Chicago's Soldier Field saw North American soccer's finest defeated 4-2 on penalties by the stars of Real Madrid.

In other MLS news, a final decision on the David Beckham-fronted Miami project, which is now led by Los Angeles Dodgers part owner Todd Boehly, is said to be imminent. Beckham travelled to Chicago to personally pitch league owners for the first time on Wednesday in an effort to finally get the project over the line, which now appears a formality given a stadium land deal is firmly in place.

“We’re not announcing MLS Miami today, but we’re confident we’ll be able to do that by the end of the summer,” said MLS commissioner Don Garber, who added that “the time is right” to enter Miami and identified four other expansion efforts - in Detroit, Sacramento, Cincinnati and Nashville - as having been “energised” this summer. A vote on which two groups among 12 contenders will be accepted in the league’s next round of expansion is now expected to take place at December’s MLS Cup.

Elsewhere the Seattle Sounders, the reigning MLS champions of the rave green variety, have enlisted WME | IMG to help secure a new major sponsor should the team part ways with Microsoft’s Xbox next year. In its first MLS team assignment, the agency will work to find a partner willing to pay a reported US$10 million-plus per season for the Sounders’ most valuable commercial assets, including jersey branding and pitch and training facility naming rights.

Speaking of WME | IMG, the company this week received a cash injection to the tune of US$1.1 billion from a group of investors including Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) and the Government of Singapore Investment Fund. The deal, orchestrated by major WME | IMG backer Silver Lake Partners and which is expected to close in mid-August, values the fingers-in-pies agency giant at US$6.3 billion, a marked increase on its 2016 valuation of US$5.5 billion. CPPIB alone has invested US$400 million for an eight per cent stake in the company.

Variety reports that funds from the latest capital injection should alleviate pressure on WME | IMG to go public, with senior executives able to cash in their shares immediately. It should also enable Silver Lake to buy out some minority partners in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), which WME | IMG purchased for US$4 billion last year and swiftly divvied up among nearly two dozen of its best-known celebrity clients.

‘Silver Lake’s long-term thesis based on the increasing value of premium/live content accelerated by tech/media convergence continues to fuel growth for WME-IMG,’ the company said on Tuesday in a letter to investors. ‘We believe WME | IMG is a unique platform across media, entertainment and sports with significant growth opportunities and remain optimistic about continued near and long-term equity value creation at the company.’

In other news, the National Football League (NFL) is reported to be exploring the possibility of creating an event hospitality venture in partnership with Legends Hospitality, the travel and ticketing services firm founded by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (right) and the New York Yankees.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the new entity would combine Legends Hospitality Management with NFL On Location Experiences, the league’s existing hospitality partner, and would manage travel and ticketing services for NFL games and other top sporting events. There are, however, doubts that enough league owners would accept such a venture. As the Journal notes, Legends already handles hospitality for a handful of NFL teams and venues, and any new company would only enable Jones to profit and gain even more influence off the back of those businesses than he already has.

Staying in the US - but with one eye, as ever, overseas - Major League Baseball (MLB) has confirmed that it plans to start playing regular-season games in London from June of 2019, and season-opening series in Asia possibly as early as next year. An opener in Japan is already a lock-in for 2019. The news comes after the league’s latest collective bargaining agreement, agreed in November, was finalised and sent to clubs last Friday.

Also this week: the Paraguayan Olympic Committee (COP) has inaugurated the country’s new Olympic Park, which boasts facilities for more than 20 sports, in Asunción; Under Armour shares have hit a record low amid sluggish sales and new plans to cut about two per cent of its global workforce; and the number of NBA jersey patch sponsorships done and dusted now stands at 11, thanks to the latest tie-up between the Denver Nuggets and Western Union.