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Volume 24 No. 155

People and Pop Culture

Hilton Worldwide execs are "hoping they can bring enough buzz and excitement to individual hotel properties that they stand out in an increasingly competitive hotel industry” by targeting professional athletes as investors, according to Kris Hudson of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Several players, including Basketball HOFers MAGIC JOHNSON and DAVID ROBINSON, “have scored some early victories in the business.” Robinson has been “an active buyer in the past year through his Admiral Capital Group and the real-estate fund it manages.” The fund "acquired a Hilton Garden Inn in Houston last October, bought the mortgage on a Renaissance hotel in Las Vegas in September and is preparing to buy its third hotel, an upscale property in the Dallas area, in the coming months.” Former MLBer GLENN DAVIS also “owns two Hilton-branded hotels in Columbus, Ohio, and is building a Marriott in Atlanta.” Hudson noted athletes “are far from undefeated in their investments.” Several clients of investment firm ProNet Capital LLC, including former NFLers AMANI TOOMER, LAVAR ARRINGTON and former NBAer NICK VAN EXEL, “invested a cumulative" $12M in a Ritz-Carlton resort "under construction in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the mid-2000s.” The project, "called Molasses Reef, ran out of financing" in '08 when its primary lender, Lehman Brothers Holdings, collapsed. Former tennis players, and husband and wife, ANDRE AGASSI and STEFI GRAF in ’08 “dropped plans to build a luxury Fairmont hotel as part of a friend's development near Boise, Idaho, that eventually went bankrupt” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/13).

Digital Royalty, a social media consultancy led by AMY JO MARTIN, will be moving its corporate headquarters from Phoenix to Las Vegas as part of a deal with Zappos CEO TONY HSIEH. Digital Royalty will become part of a technology hub Hsieh is seeking to develop in downtown Las Vegas, and Hsieh also will become an investor in the company. In the move, Digital Royalty will expand its year-old education division, built to complement its consulting operation that has worked with many teams and properties including the Suns, Indians, White Sox, UFC and Nike. Knicks G BARON DAVIS also is becoming an investor in Digital Royalty and will intern with the outfit this summer.

In N.Y., Calder & Li report Nets minority Owner JAY-Z has been named “a ‘director’ for the Brooklyn Arena LLC, the company that runs Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.” Jay-Z’s formal title is "Director of the Arena." Barclays Center officials confirmed that he becomes “one of seven directors,” and will “attend board meetings and help direct arena senior staff on daily operations.” The other arena directors are Forest City CEO BRUCE RATNER, DAVID BERLINER, MARY ANNE GILMARTIN, CHRISTOPHE CHARLIER, IRINA PAVLOVA and DAVID CARLOCK (N.Y. POST, 6/14).

EXECS: Palace Sports & Entertainment named JUSTIN TRAPP Dir of Advertising & Promotions, effective last Monday (PS&E)….The Univ. of Miami named JENNIFER STRAWLEY Senior Associate AD/Administration & Student Excellence and Senior Woman Administrator (Miami)….Northeastern Univ. named Old Dominion Univ. Athletic Foundation Assistant Dir VINCENT CIVIAN Associate Dir of Leadership Gifts (Northeastern).

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In Austin, Suzanne Halliburton reports the USADA "has filed drug conspiracy charges against LANCE ARMSTRONG, putting his seven Tour de France titles in jeopardy and at least temporarily ending his recent re-emergence in triathlons" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 6/14). Armstrong said, "I have never doped." The AP's Jim Vertuno notes the move by USADA "immediately bans him from competing in triathlons, which he turned to after he retired from cycling last year" (AP, 6/13).

HONORING A LEGEND: The USGA announced that the U.S. Open medal given to the tournament winner "will be called the JACK NICKLAUS Medal." The group also announced that they were "adding a room in Nicklaus' honor, filled with Nicklaus memorabilia, at the USGA Museum in Fair Hills, N.J., and that they had partnered in a documentary, to be shown before the start of Sunday's telecast, about Nicklaus' first major victory" (L.A. TIMES, 6/14). In West Palm Beach, Greg Stoda notes the Jack Nicklaus Medal will include "his likeness in silhouette on one side" (PALM BEACH POST, 6/14).

FLYING SOUTH: The Vinik Asset Management group, a Boston-based hedge fund and investment firm founded and controlled by Lightning Owner JEFF VINIK, "will relocate to downtown Tampa." The company has "signed a long-term lease to take the 31st floor of the SunTrust Financial Centre building," and is expected to begin operating out of the new space "this summer with about 25 employees" (, 6/13).

YOU CAN PLAY: In Winnipeg, Paul Friesen reports NHL Jets LW TANNER GLASS and D DUSTIN BYFUGLIEN have joined the "You Can Play" campaign, designed to make gay hockey players "feel safe in coming out." Glass said, "No hesitation, whatsoever. It's a cause I feel is a good one." The campaign might "land its biggest star yet," as Kings RW DUSTIN BROWN and D ALEC MARTINEZ  "have expressed interest in getting on board." Flyers scout PATRICK BURKE, who is also involved in the campaign, said, "We're hoping if we can swing it, have it include Lord Stanley, if at all possible" (WINNIPEG SUN, 6/14).

NAMES: A crew from HBO's "REAL SPORTS WITH BRYANT GUMBEL" yesterday was trailing Dodgers CF MATT KEMP to film an upcoming episode (, 6/13)....WNBA Sun C TINA CHARLES received the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award in recognition of her outstanding work in the community in '11 (WNBA)....Patriots QB TOM BRADY, TE ROB GRONKOWSKI and Owner ROBERT KRAFT appeared yesterday at Gillette Stadium to give $100,000 to the '12 Myra Kraft Community MVP award winners (BOSTON HERALD, 6/14)....NFLPA Exec Dir DEMAURICE SMITH attended Patriots mini-camp with NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir of External Affairs GEORGE ATALLAH in Foxboro, Mass. (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/14)....RBS Citizens, better known as Citizens Bank, has sued former MLBer CURT SCHILLING to recover $2.4M in loans it made to Schilling's video game company, 38 Studios LLC, which filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection last week (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/14).