Americas Bulletin: Money, Manny, and yet more money; Providence does SUMs; Ballmer eyes Inglewood

SportsPro’s Americas Bulletin, dishing up a regular diet of news, views and insight from across the business of sport in the Western Hemisphere.

Americas Bulletin: Money, Manny, and yet more money; Providence does SUMs; Ballmer eyes Inglewood

The deal is done, the date is set, the location has been agreed, and the domestic broadcaster is Showtime. Other than those details, pretty much every other piece of business is still to be thrashed out before the circus descends on Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena on 26th August for Floyd Mayweather Jr’s ultra-hyped punching match with kick specialist Conor McGregor.

Make no mistake, though, this all about the money. As ever, revenue estimates vary wildly but some experts in the fight game say this bout could top US$500 million, the lion’s share of which would come through a possibly record-setting number of pay-per-view buys. According to the New York Times’ Kevin Draper, the cable companies and satellite providers that distribute the fight can expect their cut, probably between 30 to 40 per cent, while HBO's Showtime will pocket its share, possibly as much as 15 per cent.

The rest? That will go to the fighters, of course, and the biggest slice will be reserved for Mayweather - you know, the retired man they call 'Money' who made so much of the stuff fighting Manny Pacquiao in 2015 that he simply couldn't resist the chance to make a whole lot more. Love them or loathe them, Mayweather and McGregor have a knack for stacking cash off the back of their egos - and now we’re all meant to care enough to pay to watch them wield them.

In real boxing news, meanwhile, ESPN is reportedly poised to announce a new multi-fight deal with Top Rank, the Vegas-based promoter that reps Pacquiao as well as a host of other up and coming talent. The Ring’s Mike Coppinger reports that Top Rank’s octogenarian kingpin Bob Arum (left) ‘has been engaged in talks for months’ with ESPN executives over a deal that could see the company’s fights featured on ESPN and even ABC, with ‘a major announcement’ set to be made sometime this week.

ESPN has already confirmed that it will broadcast Pacquiao’s welterweight title defence against Jeff Horn on 2nd July, the first of seven shows to be aired this year, with a minimum of 18 more coming in 2018, reports Coppinger. It is unclear whether Top Rank is severing ties with HBO, its longstanding cable broadcast partner that reportedly failed with its undisclosed offer for the rights to next month’s bout in Brisbane.

Five years after buying 25 per cent of Major League Soccer’s (MLS) media and marketing arm, Providence Equity Partners have reportedly struck a deal to offload their shares back to the league. Providence paid US$150 million to become the only outside investor in Soccer United Marketing (SUM) in 2012, but even though six expansion teams have joined MLS since then, thereby diluting the firm’s original share, the company stands to triple its investment owing to the success of SUM in the interim, according to Bloomberg.

“By combining the most popular sport in the world with the largest media market in the world, we knew MLS had a unique opportunity,” said Jonathan Nelson, the founder and chief executive of Providence, who are amassing an enviable track record of garnering sizeable returns through sporting investments having also seen threefold gains through the sales of Learfield Communications last year, and the World Triathlon Corporation in 2015.

In basketball, the Los Angeles Clippers have secured an exclusive negotiating agreement with the city of Inglewood that could see the National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise move to a new arena situated a stone’s throw from the future home of the Chargers and Rams football teams.

Last week, Inglewood City Council unanimously approved the agreement, which calls for a three-year negotiating period to allow for talks with a developer over an arena for up to 20,000 spectators. The Clippers’ current lease at LA’s Staples Center runs until 2024 but Steve Ballmer, the team’s owner, has made no secret of his desire to secure his own venue and, more importantly, to stop playing third fiddle to the LA Lakers and the LA Kings ice hockey team.

Staying on the west coast, Golden State Warriors co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber delved into their deep pockets to personally foot the bill for their team’s championship victory parade last weekend. The two billionaires, who will relocate the Warriors to San Francisco in 2019, picked up the roughly US$4 million tab voluntarily as a helping hand to the city of Oakland, which would ordinarily have been on the hook but is facing a massive budget shortfall.

Elsewhere, the proposed merger of daily fantasy companies DraftKings and FanDuel has come up against yet more resistance after the US Federal Trade Commission announced it would attempt to block the move. Perturbed at the prospect of the newly created company controlling nearly 95 per cent of the US daily fantasy sports market, federal regulators have filed for a preliminary injunction while they assess whether the merger violates antitrust laws.

In a joint statement, DraftKings and FanDuel responded by saying they were “disappointed” by the decision and argued that the merger, which had been expected to close later this year, “is in the best interests of our players, our companies, our employees and the fantasy sports industry.” Both companies are now considering their legal options.

Also this week: US Ski & Snowboard has officially rebranded, unifying its various disciplines under a single identity after completing a two-year overhaul; the Orlando Magic and the Minnesota Timberwolves are the latest NBA teams to secure jersey patch sponsors, signing with Disney and Fitbit respectively; and Nike has announced it is to cut around two per cent of its global workforce - around 1,400 employees - amid “leadership and organisational changes” that the company hopes will “streamline and speed up” strategic execution.