Jim Irsay, the owner of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, was reportedly offered $3.2 billion for the franchise. He turned that offer down. This value in the ballpark of Forbes’ estimate for the Colts of $2.65 billion.
To put that number into perspective. The Carolina Panthers last year sold to investor David Tepper for some $2.275 billion. According to Forbes the Dallas Cowboys are the most valuable NFL and world sports franchise checking in at $5.5 billion. In short, big business.
Yesterday Bloomberg reported that the NBA is exploring the idea of launching a fund that would purchase minority stakes in the league’s teams. The fund would solve a few problems including providing liquidity for minority owners. It is the case that minority stakes in sports franchises sell at at discount to controlling stakes.
The idea of securitizing assets that were previously unavailable to investors is not a new trend. One of the great promises of blockchain technology is the ability to tokenize individual assets in a low-cost and seamless way making them tradeable among investors. There are now startups that are providing homeowners with equity to buy a house, thereby sharing the potential upside. If this takes off, you could see funds that hold a portfolio of these assets. Using a little imagination you can come up with all manner of newly tradeable assets.
The universe of public US stocks has been shrinking since 1996. It should not be surprising that investors would be interested in finding additional, albeit unique, assets to put into their portfolios. Heck, when government bonds in many parts of the world have negative yields, a chunk of the Portland Trailblazers looks pretty good in comparison. Kendall Baker at Axios thinks this idea is a slam dunk:
Being a passive sports team owner is really being the person who pays the most for good seats. But owning a portfolio could be appealing for long-term money, and it’s only a matter of time before we get a league-managed or third-party fund/marketplace for these interests.
Just as the major sports leagues are finding ways to profit off legal sports betting in the US. Don’t be surprised if they make sure they are a part of any sort of team ownership solution as well.
*Just saw this on Bloomberg about the NFL re-thinking some of its ownership rules based, in part, on higher franchise values.