Penguins, Fenway and Fubo Among $1.7 Billion in PPP Loans for Sports Business

Brendan Coffey
·3 min read

Nearly 4,000 businesses throughout the sports industry—from big-league franchises to local rec centers—have received more than $1.7 billion through the federal government’s Payroll Protection Program, designed to help companies preserve jobs during the onset of the pandemic.

Last week a federal judge ordered the release of loan data that specifies the loan amount of every entity that received $150,000 or more (the names of recipients of smaller loans aren’t disclosed). A previous release of large PPP loan data provided only a broad range of PPP distributions.

An analysis of the latest data shows that 3,968 sports businesses received $1.72 billion to support 235,475 jobs. Most loans were relatively small—about one-third of the industry’s loans were for $150,000 to $200,000, for instance. There were 286 sports businesses that received loans of $1 million or more. The largest recipients, taking loans of the maximum $10 million each, were the New York Racing Association, which operates the Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga horse tracks, and Youfit, a chain of fitness centers in the southeast.

About 473 sports teams, athletic conferences and halls of fame received PPP loans. Lemieux Group, which holds Mario Lemieux’s stake in the Pittsburgh Penguins, took a $4.82 million PPP disbursement, while Major League Soccer teams in Washington D.C., Seattle and Orlando each received more than $1.7 million. Orlando City SC, majority owned by Brazilian Flávio Augusto da Silva, is currently reportedly close to selling for $400 million.

Several racing groups received large loans, including Richard Childress’ NASCAR team, RCR Enterprises ($6.33 million); Chip Ganassi Racing ($3.96 million); Andretti Autosport ($2.3 milion); and Roush Fenway Racing ($3.53 million). The latter is a division of Fenway Sports, which is discussing an $8 billion going-public transaction with a SPAC.

Meanwhile, sports-centric network Fubo TV, which raised $183 million cash when it completed its initial public offering in October, received a PPP loan of $4.7 million.

PPP loans were designed to give small businesses an incentive to keep workers on the payroll. The $10 million maximum limit applies to each business entity, which means some brands received well more. For instance, Planet Fitness gyms received at least $26 million in loans by virtue of having six different franchise owners, including a Boston private equity firm. Loan parameters also focused primarily on a business unit’s payroll costs and net income, meaning that business arms of seemingly high-net-worth sports figures, including Andre Agassi, Scott Boras, Tom Brady and Floyd Mayweather, were able to acquire PPP disbursements.

Loans are forgivable by the federal government based on expenses (primarily payroll-related) incurred during a period after the loan. Overall, 4.9 million loans worth $521 billion were disbursed by the federal government as part of its effort to support the economy during the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Small Business Administration report in June.

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