Americas Bulletin: FanKings or DraftDuel?; Kroenke’s Disneyland; Samsung ditches CBF 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: FanKings or DraftDuel?; Kroenke’s Disneyland; Samsung ditches CBF and more

Facing a slew of legal and regulatory battles in multiple US states, DraftKings Inc and FanDuel Inc, the world’s two dominant daily fantasy sports (DFS) websites, finally confirmed plans to merge on Friday. While financial terms have not been disclosed, the merger is expected to close in 2017, with DraftKings chief executive Jason Robins retaining his current title at the new entity, and FanDuel chief Nigel Eccles serving as chairman. 

Having attracted investment from a tranche of mainstream sports organisations and individuals, including the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Baseball (MLB), the two companies have grown rapidly: both are valued at more than US$1 billion apiece and claim to have a combined five million of the estimated 57 million total DFS users in North America. Though as-yet unnamed, the newly merged company will be ‘co-headquartered’ in both New York and Boston, and will enable both entities to streamline and pool resources as they fight to legitimise and, in many states, legalise the DFS industry.

"This merger will help advance our goal of building a transformational global sports entertainment platform," said Robins. "Joining forces will allow us to truly realise the potential of our vision, and as a combined company we will be able to accelerate the pace of innovation and bring a richer experience to our customers than we ever could have done separately."

Another year, another mega stadium project in the National Football League (NFL). 11 months after securing their relocation from St Louis, the Los Angeles Rams broke ground on their new US$2.5 billion, 70,000-seat home in Inglewood last week. Constructed on a swath of land more than three times the size of Disneyland, the HKS Architects-designed, 298-acre development includes a concert venue, a hotel, retail and office space, apartments and townhouses, and even an artificial lake with waterfalls. “This thing is going to be unbelievable,” declared Rams owner Stan Kroenke (above in middle), speaking at Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony. “I don’t think people really understand the scale of this.”

North America's most expensive sports facility, the Rams’ state of the art stadium is scheduled to open in time for the 2019 NFL season and slated to host the Super Bowl in 2021 - and it could also end up housing the San Diego Chargers. Talks over a potential venue-sharing arrangement between the Rams and the Chargers, whose own stadium proposal was rejected by voters earlier this month, are ongoing - the latter having been given a deadline of 15th January to decide their future. Should the Chargers fail to secure an agreement, the Oakland Raiders would be next in line to join the Rams in LA.

In other stadium news, meanwhile, a Missouri-based ownership group has announced plans to build a new downtown, soccer-specific facility in St Louis, with a view to bringing Major League Soccer (MLS) to the city. SC STL, led by chairman and lead owner Paul Edgerley, has offered to stump up much of the nearly US$200 million estimated cost of the project, as well as providing the entire MLS expansion fee. “With its rich soccer heritage, St Louis has always been a market of great interest to Major League Soccer and SC STL is the ideal ownership group that will provide St Louis the best opportunity for a future expansion team,” MLS commissioner Don Garber (above) said in a statement.

Elsewhere, Samsung has parted ways with the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF), becoming the fifth major sponsor to sever ties with the governing body since the Fifa corruption scandal broke in 2015. Samsung, one of several companies to link with the CBF ahead of the 2014 Fifa World Cup, follows Gillette, Sadia, Michelin and Unimed out the door. Brazilian media reports that Samsung and the CBF are now in settlement talks, with US$20 million in sponsorship fees having been committed until 2021. Meanwhile Marco Polo del Nero, the indicted CBF president, remains wanted by US investigators on bribery charges.

In other news, the NBA has settled a lawsuit filed by former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was banned for life and fined US$2.5 million in 2014 after making racist remarks; the owners of Churchill Downs have announced plans to spend US$38 million on expanding their marquee Louisville racetrack, home of the Kentucky Derby; the new Las Vegas National Hockey League (NHL) franchise will be nicknamed the Golden Knights; and Carlos Nuzman, the Rio 2016 chief and president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, has declared his candidacy for the presidency of the Pan American Sports Organisation (PASO), adding his name to four others in the running for the post at April’s election in Montevideo, Uruguay.