Why Liberty Media Is Worth $17.2B

Front Office Sports

Not only did we get quite possibly the greatest NFL weekend of all time, but Kansas State center Ayoka Lee scored 61 points in a blowout against Oklahoma — setting the record for most points ever tallied by one player in a NCAA Division I women’s basketball game.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports/Design: Alex Brooks

Sports empires are growing as team valuations rise and owners seek more expansive portfolios.

The top 20 empires had a total value of $124 billion, per Forbes’ recent tabulation, up 22% from last year’s $102 billion.

The rise was driven by the NFL’s $113 billion set of media deals as well as the NHL’s seven-year pacts with Disney and Turner Sports, collectively worth around $600 million annually.

  • Liberty Media led the pack with its $17.2 billion group, which includes the Atlanta Braves, Formula 1, and stakes in Kroenke Arena Company, Drone Racing League, and Meyer Shank Racing.
  • Kroenke Sports & Entertainment was a distant second at $10.5 billion. That empire includes the Los Angeles Rams, Arsenal FC, and a slew of Colorado teams: the Denver Nuggets, and the Colorado Avalanche, Rapids, and Mammoth.
  • Fenway Sports Group vaulted to third at $9.8 billion with its $900 million purchase of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The group also owns the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool FC, Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing, and broadcast company NESN.

Teams Teaming Up

While many in the top 25 empires only own one or two teams, there is a growing trend toward multi-team groups, particularly as American investors eye soccer teams both at home and overseas.

This week, Major League Soccer reportedly entered exclusive negotiations with Aston Villa co-owners Wes Edens and Naseef Sawiris to bring a team to Las Vegas. Edens is also co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Wilf Family, owners of the Minnesota Vikings, purchased Orlando City SC and the Orlando Pride last July.

Sarah Kloepping/USA TODAY NETWORK/Design: Alex Brooks

The legalized U.S. sports betting market doubled in 2021, with more than $52.7 billion wagered throughout the year, according to data intelligence agency Morning Consult.

The spike is the result of legal sports bets launching in 11 states and billions of dollars spent on marketing by gambling operators looking to attract new customers.

  • 12% of adults placed bets once a week, up from 5% in January 2021.
  • 14% of sports bettors said their average bet is more than $100.
  • Oddsmakers only pocketed approximately $4 billion of the total amount wagered last year.

Old and New School

Currently, 30 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized sports betting, and more young people are participating — 19% of adults aged 21-34 have bet on sports at least once a week, including legal and offshore sportsbooks.

“Given the proliferation of online sports betting and operators’ focus on digital marketing, it should come as no surprise that younger Americans are the most inclined to place wagers on games,” said Morning Consult.

On the other hand, 23% of U.S. adults aged 35-44 place a sports bet at least weekly, while another 8% wager monthly.

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Fox Sports is targeting New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton as a candidate to succeed Troy Aikman should the former Dallas Cowboys star bolt for Amazon Prime Video, sources tell Front Office Sports.

Payton has not committed to returning to the Saints for the 2022 season, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Aikman could leave for Amazon’s streaming coverage of “Thursday Night Football” next season and Payton’s at the top of Fox’s replacement list, said sources. 

“[Fox] has to go big if they need to replace Troy,” said Eric Weinberger, former senior producer at Fox Sports.

Of course, it depends on whether the 58-year-old wants to do TV, but signs are growing that Payton’s Super Bowl-winning run in New Orleans is coming to a close.

What Are The Chances?

“Prior to the end of the 2021 season … Payton was approached by at least one TV network about working in media,” Rapoport reported.

  • With Aikman’s $8 million salary off the books, Fox could afford Payton.
  • Payton signed a five-year extension with the Saints in 2019 that pays him more than $9 million per season.

The Saints declined to comment. Fox won’t “speculate on personnel hires.”

Fox was the sole TV network to offer Payton a job during his 2012 suspension for the Saints’ “Bountygate” scandal.

Rei do Pitaco/Design: Alex Brooks

Rei do Pitaco, a daily fantasy sports platform, announced a $32 million Series A funding round led by New York investment manager D1 Capital Partners.

The round was co-led by Bullpen Capital, Left Lane Capital, and Kaszek.

Launched in 2019, RDP already has 1.5 million registered users and is only available in Brazil. The platform reportedly gained interest from investors due to the likelihood that sports betting will be legalized in the country as soon as this year.

Bullpen Capital previously raised a $6 million seed funding round for the platform and believes RDP will become a major player in Latin America, similar to a FanDuel or DraftKings in the U.S.

  • Bullpen invested in FanDuel in 2011, just two years after it launched.
  • FanDuel co-founder Nigel Eccles has reportedly advised RDP co-founders Mateus Dantas and Kiko Augusto in their endeavors and is now RDP’s chairman.

Expansion Plans

RDP focuses solely on soccer for now but is looking to reach new territories, sports, and products. 

The new funding round will contribute to more prizes, marketing, product improvement, and personnel expansion. The company wants to increase its number of employees from 75 to 200 this year. It has distributed more than $5 million in cash prizes since its launch.

  • Last summer, Ken Goldin believed that the collectibles boom was going to settle down and, in July, his company Goldin Auctions was sold to Collectors Holdings for an estimated $200 million. He was wrong. “I could have waited three or six months before I did my deal on Goldin and I’d have significantly more in the bank today,” he told Front Office Sports in an exclusive interview.
  • The NFLPA and EA Sports announced they will be canceling in-person events the week of Super Bowl LVI due to COVID-19 concerns.
  • Without a collective bargaining agreement in place, NWSL players reportedly won’t report to their teams on Feb. 1, the first day of preseason.
  • Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer said that the Xbox team has expressed a desire to keep “Call of Duty” available on PlayStation, despite Microsoft’s recent purchase of Activision Blizzard.

*All times are EST unless otherwise noted.
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.

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