Welcome to Sportico’s Transactions wire, a weekly rundown of personnel, partnerships and purchases across the sports business industry
Kevin Durant Buys Piece of Gotham FC
NJ/NY Gotham FC of the National Women’s Soccer League announced that Thirty Five Ventures (35V), co-founded by NBA Champion Kevin Durant and entrepreneur Rich Kleiman, have joined as minority investors of the club. Since March, 35V has been the third group of investors to take a stake in the franchise, joining fellow minority owners Kristin Bernert and Karen Bryant in March and Carli Lloyd in April. The investment includes additional partnership elements such as content creation, social media support, player relations and community outreach. This follows 35V’s previous partnerships in women’s sports, including an investment in media network Just Women’s Sports and a strategic partnership with pro sports league Athletes Unlimited, where Durant and Kleiman serve as board members. It is also the company’s second investment in a professional soccer team after acquiring an ownership stake in Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union in June 2020.
NBA Adds Hall-of-Famer Joe Dumars to Executive Roster
The National Basketball Association has named Hall-of-Famer Joe Dumars executive vice president, head of basketball operations. Dumars, a long-time team executive and NBA champion, will begin with the league office on May 9 and report to Byron Spruell, president, league operations. In his new role, Dumars will oversee all basketball operations matters for the NBA, including the development of playing rules and interpretations, conduct and discipline, and policies and procedures relating to the operation of games. He’ll also engage with players, coaches, team executives, officials and other key stakeholders to sustain the highest level of play and competition. Dumars will also lead the overall talent strategy for Basketball Operations and reinforce a culture of inclusivity and innovation. The Joe Dumars Trophy is presented annually to the NBA player who best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court. Dumars was the inaugural winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award (1995-96 season), and he also received the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for his outstanding service and dedication to the community. Dumars joins the league office after working for the Sacramento Kings and the Detroit Pistons.
XFL Names Erica Muhleman as Senior Vice President, Team Services
The XFL has hired Erica Muhleman as senior vice president, team services. In this role, Muhleman will manage day-to-day business operations for each of the XFL’s eight teams, including developing a consultative model to optimize market inputs and executing growth strategies in local markets as the XFL prepares for its 2023 season. Muhleman will also implement and lead community-focused engagement initiatives to promote team and league awareness and build a unique fandom in each city. Once the season begins, Muhleman will oversee day-to-day team activations, gameday operations and fan experiences. Muhleman joins the XFL from Hall of Fame Resort and Entertainment Company, where she most recently served as executive vice president, new business development, market and sales, overseeing all revenue generating and marketing initiatives. She will report to Janet Duch, chief marketing and content officer.
Women’s Hockey League Brings Icon Into the Fold
The Premier Hockey Federation has appointed Melody Davidson to the role of director, league and hockey operations. Davidson is a pioneer within the sport and widely regarded as the most important figure in Canadian women’s hockey history with a career at Hockey Canada that spanned 26 years with roles in almost every major international triumph for Canada’s National Women’s Team. She will provide general hockey operations guidance and support as it relates to the structure of the PHF regular season, playoffs and offseason processes, and help develop and navigate the federation’s relationships with key partners across the hockey community in North America and internationally. Davidson’s previous roles with Team Canada have included head coach, assistant coach, general manager and head scout across 36 different events.
FanDuel Bets on Jennings as New CFO
FanDuel Group has appointed David Jennings as the company’s chief financial officer. Jennings will be responsible for oversight of all FanDuel’s finance functions including FP&A, strategy, accounting, procurement, tax and treasury in support of the company’s sportsbook, casino, racing, daily fantasy, retail and corporate functions. Jennings joins FanDuel from parent company Flutter Plc (LON: FLTR), where he served as group director of investor relations and FP&A. He also led the Corporate Development team at Flutter for a period. Prior to joining Flutter, he was an equity research analyst, first at Goldman Sachs Asset Management and then at J&E Davy where his research focus was principally the gaming industry and in particular the rise of online and mobile wagering.
Youth Sports Outfit Brings on CFO, Promotes VP of People
TeamSnap has hired Mark Salloom as CFO and promoted Sheila Repeta to vice president of people. Salloom brings over 25 years of experience in the software industry, and he will ensure TeamSnap remains positioned to build and innovate in the youth sports market. Repeta joined TeamSnap in fall of 2018.
Esports Power Team Liquid Raises $35M
International esports organization Team Liquid, alongside its parent company aXiomatic, closed a $35 million growth round. The raise was led by funds managed by Ares Management with additional participation from Revolution Growth and Hiro Capital. The raise elevates Liquid’s valuation to an estimated $415 million. The funding will bolster Team Liquid’s long-term sustainability and boost competitive investment, fan cultivation and international business operations. More specifically, the raise will support potential mergers and acquisitions, innovation across fan engagement platforms, partnership offerings and activations, and continued development and infrastructure in Brazil. Team Liquid is now represented across 19 major esports titles, 120-plus athletes, two training facilities and multiple enterprise units specializing in partnership marketing, media production and content creation, influencer management, technology and innovation and apparel.
WNBA Players Association to Drop First NFT
The first official WNBA Players Association NFT collection on the OpenSea Platform, Hoopers United, was released on May 5. Over 50% of every sale will be donated back with a goal of raising $1 million for the WNBPA and Rock the Vote to support the players and equitable voting rights. The mission-based collection combines the vision of the WNBPA and Hoopers Vote, a campaign launched during the 2020 election by Ben Lyons and Heartlent Group in collaboration with Rock the Vote that amplified basketball culture to drive voter registration, education, and turnout. Each NFT in the Hoopers United collection is a standalone work with a portrait that highlights each player’s character, achievements and message.
USC QB Duo Launch Student-Athlete NFT Platform
University of Southern California star quarterbacks of past and present—2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart and 2021 freshman All-American Caleb Williams—launched Hall of GOATs, a non-fungible token platform for amateur athletes to build their personal brands through digital collectibles. The new digital marketplace offers male and female amateur athletes across all schools, sports and levels the opportunity to tell their stories, build their digital communities and engage directly with their fans, offering access supporters can’t find anywhere else. Kicking off with an early access pass followed by an exclusive NFT collection—starring co-founder and recent USC transfer Williams—Hall of GOATs will work directly with their athlete partners on personal brand strategy, creative direction and execution of digital collectibles. Beyond the athlete NFT collections, Hall of GOATs’ offering for holders includes limited edition merchandise drops, autographed memorabilia, tickets to tailgate events and exclusive Discord conversations with athlete partners, among other benefits.
NBL Canada Partners With IMG ARENA on Sports Betting
IMG ARENA, a leading sports content and technology business, will become the official data supplier for sports betting for the National Basketball League of Canada (NBL Canada). The exclusive audio-visual sports betting and data rights deal begins at the start of the next season with distribution to IMG ARENA’s network of sportsbook brands worldwide. Headquartered in London, IMG ARENA is a sports content and technology hub serving the sports, sports betting and sports media. IMG ARENA delivers live streaming and data feeds for more than 45,000 sports events annually, as well as for on-demand virtual sports products and front-end solutions, including the UFC Event Centre. IMG ARENA’s clients include the ATP, UFC, DP World Tour, PGA Tour, EuroLeague, MLS and the FA.
Call of Duty Endowment Places 100,000 Veterans
The Call of Duty Endowment reached its goal of placing 100,000 veterans into meaningful employment two years ahead of schedule. Activision Blizzard is also committing $30 million in additional funding to support the program for the next five years. In recognition of Military Appreciation Month, the Endowment released a white paper detailing veteran employment “lessons learned” over the organization’s 12-year history, with recommendations for veterans, employers, policy makers and philanthropic donors. The endowment partners with the most effective nonprofit veterans organizations in both the U.S. and U.K. to deliver low-cost, high-value job placement, the service most requested by veterans.
Directors Mortgage Announced as Official Partner of Pac-12
The Pac-12 has named Directors Mortgage, based in Oregon, as an official partner of the conference, as well as official mortgage partner of the league’s three flagship championship events, the Pac-12 Football Championship Game, presented by 76, and the Pac-12 Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments, presented by New York Life. Committed to supporting Pac-12 athletes, Directors Mortgage has earmarked annual scholarship funds for Pac-12 student-athletes pursuing graduate degrees. The company will also participate in the first Pac-12 Symposium, which will bring together recent graduates and Pac-12 business partners for a networking event in San Francisco.