Americas Bulletin: Rams eye AT&T record; Twitter tools up; Fertittas to splash UFC cash and more

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: Rams eye AT&T record; Twitter tools up; Fertittas to splash UFC cash and more

US$30 million per year over a minimum of two decades: those are the eye-popping terms the Los Angeles Rams have slapped on any naming rights deal for their under-construction, US$2.6 billion sports and entertainment mega-complex in Inglewood. According to SportsBusiness Journal’s Terry Lefton, sources have indicated that AT&T has already been offered the deal, which would mark a new stadium naming rights record and the telecoms giant’s fourth major sports facility entitlement agreement, following deals in Texas and San Francisco.

As part of their relocation from St Louis in January 2016, the Rams were prohibited from signing a naming rights partner for at least a year or until they secured a venue-sharing agreement, which eventually came when the Chargers upped sticks from San Diego to join the Rams in LA this year. Dallas-based AT&T signed on as a top-level ‘homecoming sponsor’ of the Rams in September but is now thought to be interested in a larger deal as it expands its operations in Southern California.

Reports that a group led by former Florida governor Jeb Bush had agreed a US$1.3 billion deal to buy the Miami Marlins baseball team appear to have been premature. Major League Baseball (MLB) commissioner Rob Manfred insisted last week that no contract had been signed and that discussions with at least two interested parties were ongoing. On Tuesday, an unnamed league source confirmed Manfred’s comments to The Miami Herald, with a second offer from Massachusetts businessman Tagg Romney - believed to be ‘slightly higher’ than that of the Bush group but less than US$1.4 billion - understood to be under consideration.

Elsewhere, Twitter ramped up its video-first strategy on Monday. In their first-ever Digital Content NewFronts presentation in New York City, executives from the sports-hungry social platform announced new agreements for a range of live and delayed programming, including weekly Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) games, a regular, three-hour MLB highlights show, exclusive daily NFL content, a new 24/7 network called Stadium that will cover college sports, and 360-degree coverage of the 17th hole at this month’s Players Championship golf tournament.

The sports programming turbo-charges Twitter’s live broadcasting strategy, augmenting a rapidly amassed rights haul that saw the company stream more than 800 hours of live video across more than 450 events in the first quarter of 2017. “Adding these 12 new live deals tonight is a testament to the success of our only-on-Twitter experience, combining high-quality streaming video with our only-on-Twitter conversation,” said Twitter chief operating officer Anthony Noto.

In tennis, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has a title sponsor for its season-long Race to Singapore after securing a multi-year deal with luxury carmaker Porsche. Though terms have not been disclosed, the agreement is the first major sponsorship deal signed since Steve Simon became chief executive of the tour in late 2015, and coincides with Porsche brand ambassador Maria Sharapova’s return to competitive action following her doping ban.

The Fertitta brothers, Frank and Lorenzo, have launched a US$500 million private investment fund less than a year after selling the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to WME | IMG for US$4 billion. Fertitta Capital will focus on consumer-facing companies in technology, media and entertainment, investing between US$20 million and US$75 million at a time. Former UFC chief financial officer Nakisa Bidarian, who oversaw the sale of the MMA promotion, will serve as chief executive of the new company, which will be based in LA.

"There is tremendous opportunity in the market for a firm that combines patient capital with this unique team of experienced investors and operators," Lorenzo, the firm’s chairman, said in a release. “Our long-term view enables us to avoid mandated investment timelines and instead focus exclusively on what really matters - understanding the needs of the companies we partner with and helping them achieve their operational and financial objectives.”

Meanwhile, Fifa’s investigatory chamber is seeking a minimum four-year ban and a fine of at least CHF15,000 for Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president Gordon Derrick (right), citing ‘alleged conflicts of interest, offering and accepting gifts and other benefits, mismanagement of funds, abuse of position, and disloyalty’. The allegations are believed to relate to Derrick’s historic dealings in Antigua, where he is general secretary of the island’s national association, rather than his business with the CFU, yet they could nevertheless spell the end of his career in soccer administration.

Derrick, a banker by trade, has been a marked man in Fifa circles for some time. A year ago, the embattled official was barred from running for the vacant Concacaf presidency after failing an integrity check and was rumoured to have been behind a failed mutiny that would have seen Caribbean nations break away from the confederation earlier this year. Inside World Football’s Paul Nicholson reports that Derrick is also the sworn enemy of Antigua's sports minister Chet Greene, the long-time head of Antiguan soccer who has tried unsuccessfully - along with Fifa and Concacaf - to remove him from office.

Also this week: the Oakland Raiders have taken another step closer to Las Vegas, forking out US$77.5 million to acquire a 62-acre parcel of land for their proposed US$1.9 billion stadium to be built close to The Strip; IMG and Mandalay Sports Media have entered into a joint venture which will see the two companies work together to develop, finance and produce a slate of sports-focused feature films, reports Deadline; and Neven Ilic has begun his tenure as president of the Pan American Sports Organisation (PASO) by paying a visit to Lima, where the Chilean is due to discuss stalled preparations for the 2019 Pan American Games with Peruvian government officials and members of the local organising committee.