Sportico Transactions: Moves and Mergers Roundup for Nov. 5

·7 min read

Welcome to Sportico’s Transactions wire, a weekly rundown of personnel, partnerships and purchases across the sports business industry.


Excel Sports Management Adds Shapiro and Tellem to Baseball and Basketball Divisions

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Excel Sports Management announced today that Rick Shapiro will act as a senior advisor to the agency’s baseball division for contract negotiations and salary arbitration during the upcoming offseason. Shapiro has more than 30 years of industry experience, including 10 years as senior advisor to the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

The agency also announced the hiring of NBA agent Michael Tellem to head Excel’s international basketball recruiting efforts in addition to representing U.S.-based players.

LIV Golf Investments Appoints Bratches and Cross to Executive Team

LIV Golf Investments, the Saudi-funded entity headed by CEO Greg Norman, announced that it has appointed Sean Bratches as chief commercial officer and Ron Cross as chief events officer. Both Bratches and Cross will transition into their roles immediately.

Bratches spent close to 30 years with ESPN, rising to executive vice president of sales and marketing, and serving on the ESPN Board of Directors. Cross has spent the last 30 years in various leadership roles at the PGA Tour and Augusta National Golf Club. PIF, one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds with a diverse international investment portfolio, is the majority shareholder in LIV Golf Investments.

S&P Names Lewis Director of Global Infrastructure Ratings

Chad Lewis has been named director of global infrastructure ratings at S&P Global. Lewis in September left Fitch Ratings after a 19-year career, where he served as Fitch’s senior director and team leader for global infrastructure and project finance, which rates the debt of stadium financing, as well as sports leagues and teams.

SailGP Appoints Ben Johnson as SVP, Strategy and Commercial Development

SailGP, the global sailboat racing league, has announced the hire of Ben Johnson as SVP, strategy and commercial development, to lead North America and support the league’s rapid global expansion.

In the newly appointed role, Johnson will lead the league’s North American expansion across broadcast and digital rights, commercial partners, agency relationships, and venues and host locations. SailGP, which features identical hydro foiling F50 catamarans, next travels to Sydney for the Australia Sail Grand on Dec. 17-18 before closing out its second season in San Francisco in March 2022.

Arena Group, Sports Illustrated Name Joy Russo as SI Executive Editor, Content Strategy

The Arena Group and Sports Illustrated announced the appointment of Joy Russo as SI’s executive editor, content strategy. Russo joins SI from ESPN, where she was senior deputy editor after a 21-year tenure. Russo will manage the day-to-day digital strategic operations for Sports Illustrated, inclusive of subscriptions and newsletters; she will also play a key role in expanding women’s sports coverage. Russo will report to SI’s co-editors-in-chief, Ryan Hunt and Stephen Cannella.

BetMGM Signs Former NFL Running Back Chris Johnson as Brand Ambassador

BetMGM, the sports betting and digital gaming company, announced the signing of former Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson as its newest brand ambassador. Johnson will be featured in BetMGM’s upcoming marketing campaigns, promotions, social media content and fan events.


Kitman Labs Closes $52 Million Investment Round for Expanded Hiring

Sports technology and analytics company Kitman Labs announced the close of a $52M investment round led by Guggenheim Investments. Kitman’s operating system for sports consolidates data from point solutions into insights with advanced analytics about talent strategies, performance, health and safety, and youth development. The latest investment brings Kitman Labs’ total outside funding to $82M.

NBA and Twitter Announce Multi-Year Partnership Extension

The National Basketball Association and Twitter announced a multi-year partnership extension that will bring additional content to Twitter Spaces, Twitter’s new live audio feature, throughout the NBA’s 75th anniversary season and beyond.

The NBA’s 40 scheduled Twitter Spaces will include 75th anniversary-themed versions planned around tentpole moments and marquee events such as Christmas Day, NBA All-Star and the NBA Finals. The spaces will feature NBA players and personnel and will also allow for sponsorship, giving brands new opportunities to connect and engage with fans through live NBA audio.

Screenvision Sports Adds Boston Celtics to In-Venue Video Network

Screenvision Sports announced a new relationship with the Boston Celtics to serve as the team’s exclusive in-venue media sales partner. The deal enables SV Sports to engage national brands via available inventory on the center-hung videoboard at TD Garden, as well as the videoboard at the Portland Expo, home to the Maine Celtics of the NBA G League.

The multi-year relationship provides SV Sports with videoboard inventory available to national advertisers, which is expected to run within 20 minutes of tip-off and during each Boston Celtics and Maine Celtics home game. The Celtics will also have the opportunity to run spots within Screenvision’s cinema network, which spans 2,000 locations and 14,000 screens.

HotelPlanner and the NBA G League Announce Exclusive Hotel Provider Partnership

HotelPlanner, a travel technology platform powered by proprietary artificial intelligence, has announced a multi-year partnership with the NBA G League to makes HotelPlanner the exclusive hotel reservations provider of the league. Announced ahead of the league’s 2021-22 season, the partnership provides a customized booking engine to offer exclusive hotel booking rates for the NBA G League and its fans.

St. John’s Partners With The Brandr Group to Launch Group Licensing for Athletes

St. John’s Athletics and The Brandr Group have launched a group licensing agreement that is available to all Red Storm athletes who represent the university’s 17 sports teams. St. John’s partnership with The Brandr Group allows for the collective use of athletes’ NIL in licensing and marketing programs that are co-branded with Red Storm Athletics.

Athletes will be able to voluntarily opt into the group licensing program, which requires at least three or more from any one sport or six or more from multiple sports in order to be marketed in groups. Participation does not restrict athletes’ individual NIL rights, and they can still enter into agreements outside of the program.

FTX US Signs Exclusive Deal With Kentucky Men’s Basketball

West Realm Shires Services Inc., the owner and operator of FTX US, announced an NIL sponsorship deal with the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team. As a result of the deal, each player who has agreed to the contract will become an ambassador of the FTX brand as part of the FTX Champions program, with each player being compensated individually.

The players will be paid in USD monthly, with the funds being made available to each of them on their own FTX debit cards. They also have the individual opportunity to create NFTs on the FTX NFT marketplace, with each player receiving most of the revenue on the sale of their individual NFTs. The NIL partnership was facilitated by the Nickel Agency.

International Chess Federation Partners With TON Labs to Launch First Global NFT Marketplace

FIDE, the International Chess Federation, has partnered with TON Labs, the core developer of the Free TON Network, to launch—a new, holistic chess non-fungible token ecosystem. The platform’s interface will accommodate the bid on and purchase of chess NFTs that live on-chain through the use of both fiat and cryptocurrencies.

Golden State Warriors and Oracle Launch Performance Tracking Platform

The Golden State Warriors and Oracle announced the launch of the Warriors Player Dashboard, powered by Oracle, a unique system that will provide Warriors players and coaches real-time statistics and integrated player performance data. The Warriors relationship with Oracle has run more than 15 years across a variety of team sponsorship initiatives.

Gopuff Becomes Official Delivery Partner of UFC 268 and UFC 269

The Ultimate Fighting Championship has announced that delivery service Gopuff will serve as UFC’s official on-demand and instant needs delivery partner of UFC 268 and UFC 269. As part of the partnership, Gopuff launched Fight Night Delights, a digital shopping experience available exclusively within the Gopuff app.
Gopuff will also give away one free Monster Energy Drink with every order from the Fight Night Delights section. Fight Night Delights promotions will be available during both UFC 268 and 269.