Welcome to Sportico’s Transactions wire, a weekly rundown of personnel, partnerships and purchases across the sports business industry.
Chicago Bears President Ted Phillips to Retire in February
Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips plans to retire in late February after spending 40 seasons with the franchise. The 65-year-old has worked in his present role since 1999. Phillips originally joined the Bears in 1983 as the team’s controller, a position he held for four years. He then served as director of finance from 1987-93 and vice president of operations from 1993-99. “Forty seasons is a long time,” he said. “I’m very blessed and I love my job. But when COVID hit, it gave me time to reflect and think about what I want my future to be. … It’s a demanding job; takes a lot of time, there’s a lot of pressure. I just felt like it’s time to hand the baton to somebody else.” Phillips is just the fourth president in the Bears’ 102-year history, following George Halas, George “Mugs” Halas Jr. and Michael McCaskey.
Panini America Strikes Exclusive Deal With Kylian Mbappé
Panini America, a subsidiary of collectibles company Panini Group, and soccer star Kylian Mbappé announced an exclusive autograph trading card and memorabilia multiyear deal. The partnership will feature Mbappé-autographed trading cards and memorabilia available only in Panini America trading card products and through Panini Authentic, the memorabilia division of Panini America. “It is such an honor for me to join the Panini family,” Mbappé said. “As a child, I used to collect some of Panini trading cards, dreaming to be represented on these cards one day. Ten years later, here we are!” Mbappé will also be featured extensively in the company’s social media and marketing initiatives surrounding major soccer launches and future event activations.
Justin Fields Invests in Funding Round for Speede Training System
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields participated in a bridge round of fundraising for Speede, a smart strength training system planning to ship its first units this fall. The Chicago-based company previously raised a $2.5 million seed round at an $8 million valuation. David Meltzer—an entrepreneur, speaker and podcaster who previously served as CEO of the Leigh Steinberg Sports & Entertainment agency—led the most recent round. It’s founded by former baseball player Dan Mooney and investor Greg Tepas. Several athletes have invested in Speede, including Fields’ Bears teammates Cole Kmet and Jaylon Johnson.
BIG3 Moves Ice Cube Into CEO Role as Part of Front Office Changes
The BIG3 basketball league announced co-founder Ice Cube has been named CEO, while co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz will become the league’s president. Ice Cube replaces Chris Hannan, whom the league said “has been relieved of his duties as CEO.” The league closes out its fifth season Sunday with the Monster Energy Celebrity Game on CBS.
Learfield and Wisconsin Add Summit Credit Union in Naming Rights Deal
The University of Wisconsin Athletic Department and its longtime multimedia rightsholder, Learfield, have announced Summit Credit Union as its first naming rights partner of the newly renovated south end zone at Camp Randall Stadium. Badger football fans and those planning weddings, business meeting and social events will enjoy the “Summit Credit Union Fifth Quarter Patio” as a new stadium space. All 375 Badger football season tickets for the new south end zone patio seats have been sold. The newly renovated space features multiple bars and private concessions, and the historic UW Field House serves as the backdrop.
New Jersey Firm Launches Peer-to-Peer Sports Betting Exchange
Prophet Exchange, a New Jersey-based peer-to-peer sports betting exchange, has launched following licensing approval from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, becoming the first sports betting exchange to legally establish itself in the United States. Founded in 2018 by CEO Dean Sisun and COO Jake Benzaquen, who have spent the last four years preparing for a U.S. launch, Prophet Exchange offers a new way of wagering for sports bettors. Prophet Exchange acts solely as an intermediary, meaning it takes no risk, and simply allows users to set prices, or place bets on prices already set by other users. To start, the company will offer moneyline, spread and total markets for NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, NCAA football and basketball games. They will continue to add new sports and markets as the platform scales.
RedBird Capital Completes Acquisition of AC Milan
RedBird Capital Partners announced that it has completed the acquisition of Associazione Calcio Milan for €1.2 billion ($1.2 billion). As the new owner of AC Milan, RedBird will continue to invest in areas that will advance the club’s sporting and commercial interests, building on last season’s achievements that culminated in the club’s Serie A championship. Priority areas of focus include supporting the club’s sporting and business leadership to ensure that the team is consistently competitive; infrastructure and facilities; and strengthening the club’s women’s and youth teams, as well as its charitable arm, Fondazione Milan. The deal will also see Yankee Global Enterprises (YGE), owner of the New York Yankees, enter into a strategic partnership with the club with a minority equity stake in AC Milan. RedBird has a longstanding relationship with the Yankees and the Steinbrenner family, with whom it is a co-owner of the Yankees Entertainment Sports (YES) Network. The completion of the purchase of Milan takes RedBird’s assets under management to approximately $7.5 billion and adds AC Milan to RedBird’s portfolio of global sports and entertainment investments that include Fenway Sports Group (Liverpool FC, Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Penguins), Toulouse FC, the Rajasthan Royals, the YES Network, the SpringHill Company, Skydance Media, the XFL, OneTeam Partners and Dream Sports.