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Volume 25 No. 50

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The investors behind David Beckham’s bid for a Miami soccer stadium have "undergone a significant shake-up," with majority partner and Dodgers co-Owner Todd Boehly out and Miami moguls Jorge and Jose Mas "joining the venture," according to sources cited in a front-page story by Kaufman & Hanks of the MIAMI HERALD. News of the shake-up comes days before the Beckham group "hopes to finally win approval" from MLS owners to grant Beckham an expansion club. The move means Beckham has "parted with the latest in a series of would-be top investors," as Boehly was "slated to be the majority owner and controlling partner" of the club. However, in the Mas brothers, Beckham "gains as partners two of the most prominent business executives in Miami." The arrival of the Mas brothers follows Jorge Mas "losing out to Derek Jeter and partners in a bid to purchase" the Marlins earlier this year. Kaufman & Hanks note Boehly stepped in to "much acclaim in April as the deep-pocketed investor that Beckham and partners said they needed to finalize their Miami stadium venture." However, it was "never clear if Boehly had locked in his backing, and MLS owners have yet to fully endorse Beckham’s Miami plans." It is "not clear now who the majority partner would be." A source said that Sprint President & CEO Marcelo Claure, a member of Beckham's group, had recruited SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, one of the wealthiest men in Japan, to "join Beckham as a partner" (MIAMI HERALD, 12/13). Sources said that the ownership structure proposed by Boehly "didn't sit well with MLS." ESPN.com's Jeff Carlisle noted there has been "pushback among MLS owners" over Beckham's discounted $25M expansion fee, and the sight of Boehly becoming the majority owner "gave the impression he was getting the franchise on the cheap." The league also "wanted a larger local presence" (ESPN.com, 12/12).

NOTHING IS GUARANTEED: Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento are the finalists for the two expansion spots expected to be announced later this month, and MLS Commissioner Don Garber said that one of the two bids selected could "begin play a year earlier than anticipated and a third team could even be chosen at some point." Garber acknowledged it is "conceivable" that one of the teams could leapfrog Miami to begin play in '19 or that a third team could be selected to take Miami’s spot in the expansion pecking order. In Cincinnati, Steve Watkins noted MLS has been "treating Miami as its 24th team to begin play" in '19, but Beckham's plan has "been in flux over the past couple of years." Garber: "I continue to say we want Miami in the league. It’s a large market, a gateway city. There are a lot of values to us having a team down there, and I remain confident we’ll get something done" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 12/12).

Boston-based attorney Steve Gans, one of the nine announced candidates for U.S. Soccer president, yesterday sent a formal letter "calling for an independent professional to manage the election," according to Grant Wahl of SI.com. Saying U.S. Soccer’s release of the voting delegates list has been "delayed and incomplete, and citing three midstream rules changes in the election process, the Gans campaign concludes in its letter that U.S. Soccer can’t be trusted to run the election properly." The letter states, “In light of the deficient handling of the election process to date, there is no reason to have faith that U.S. Soccer leadership will manage this process appropriately in the months ahead.” U.S. Soccer's Nominating and Governance committee is "comprised by five U.S. Soccer board members" -- MLS Commissioner Don Garber, outgoing President Sunil Gulati, Athletes Council member Angela Hucles, Youth Council Representative Tim Turney and Independent Dir Donna Shalala. A U.S. Soccer spokesperson said that the federation will be "retaining an independent outside firm to oversee the election in itself in February." But Gans in his own statement said the election process "remains clouded in mystery." In a letter responding to the Gans campaign yesterday, U.S. Soccer Chief Counsel Lydia Wahlke wrote that the delay in Gans receiving a list of voting delegates was "due to Gans, not to U.S. Soccer." Wahlke states that Gans "waited until October 13 to return the signed list agreement." She also "disagrees with the Gans campaign’s characterization of midstream election rules changes" (SI.com, 12/12).

STORY UNTOLD
: ESPN.com's Noah Davis wrote it is important "who ends up replacing Gulati, because whoever does will have neither the influence possessed by the outgoing president, nor the mandate and ability to affect change on a large scale." What people "miss about Gulati is that his power did not come from his position as USSF president." Instead, the Univ. of Columbia economics professor "derived his ability to control the game in this country because he spent a lifetime moving up the ladder, developing relationships along the way." He "understood the landscape better than anyone else." While his tenure "ended in failure," it "wasn't a failure overall." The program is "moving in the right direction," and the system is "stable" (ESPN.com, 12/11).

The NBA's entry into competitive gaming with the NBA 2K League "could add to esports' legitimacy" and is part of the league's "effort to broaden" its base, according to Marco Santana of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. The Magic are part of the 17-team esports league, and team CEO Alex Martins sees "opportunity for his franchise." Martins: "The ability to attract a younger demographic through the esports side of basketball is very intriguing to us. It’s both an opportunity to grow our brand worldwide and cultivate younger fans." He added, "We are jumping into it the same way we approach all of our business lines. We are committed, and we are going to put resources behind it" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 12/13). In Indianapolis, Jim Ayello notes while Pacers Gaming is affiliated with the Pacers, the esports players will "not control digital versions of NBA players." Instead, they will "create customizable avatars and use those for the competition." NBA 2K League will "function much like other professional sports." The players "will have contracts, and while trades and free agency are not a part of the league in Year 1," Pacers Gaming's Dir of esports Operations Cody Parrent "foresees those aspects of the NBA game coming to the NBA2K league in the years to come." Not only will Parrent be "tasked with scouting, recruiting, drafting and coaching Pacers Gaming players, he also will conduct practices in a yet-to-be-determined facility, break down film and create game plans" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 12/13).

FIRST TEAM NAMES BEING ANNOUNCED: The Magic this morning announced its 2K League team will be called Magic Gaming, and its logo uses elements of the NBA's team marks. That includes the black and silver colors and use of a basketball. The Cavaliers, Kings, Mavericks, Pacers and Pistons yesterday unveiled their 2K League team names logos. Additionally, Hot Pockets has signed on to be the first founding partner of Cavs Legion GC (THE DAILY).

For more coverage of the business of esports, visit our partners, esportsobserver.com.