The owners of the Red Sox remain open to the idea of adding an NBA or NHL team, maybe both, to their stable of sports properties, Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy said Tuesday.
Speaking during a Sportico webinar devoted to the business of baseball that also included MLB commissioner Rob Manfred weighing in on the failed European Super League soccer gambit, Kennedy said the other leagues’ respective leaders know Fenway Sports Group would like to have a seat at the table whenever franchises come up for sale.
“We’re a huge admirer of the National Basketball Association and obviously the National Hockey League, it represents a natural place for Fenway Sports Group to look but we’ve not had any specific discussions or negotiations with any local market,” said Kennedy, who recently received a limited partner stake in FSG, whose principal owner John Henry owns the Globe. “But we have, as we’ve done over our two decades here, connected with [NBA commissioner] Adam Silver and his team and [NHL commissioner] Gary Bettman and [deputy commissioner] Bill Daly just to let them know that at some point we’d love to explore further opportunities in their league.”
Another new FSG partner, Lakers superstar LeBron James, has said he wants to own an NBA team after his playing days end.
Kennedy said FSG, which recently received a capital infusion of $750 million from RedBird Capital Partners, is looking at “international opportunities as well.”
FSG, which has owned the Liverpool Football Club since 2010, is said to be exploring purchasing another European soccer team.
FSG also announced last fall it will co-develop a multi-use real estate project on parcels of land surrounding Fenway Park.
“We’re in full-on 3.0 mode for Fenway Sports Group after 20 years together and looking forward to it,” said Kennedy. “It’s such a great time for our industry generally as we emerge from COVID and I’m really excited about the future for Fenway Sports Group.”
Kennedy said Fenway 3.0 “is going to be about tripling down on new and different teams, leagues, revenues, maybe here in North America, maybe abroad, but I think we’ll see more of the same, which is a commitment to blue-chip property and getting blue-chip management to come in and operate as we go forward.”
For the first time, an investment in FSG from Arctos Sports Partners was publicly revealed as Kennedy lauded the allowance by MLB for private equity firms to become limited partners in the 30 major league teams.
“These LP positions are so important and having a new source of liquidity coming into the game is incredibly powerful,” said Kennedy. “Kudos to MLB for starting this trend back in 2019. We’ve obviously got RedBird in our cap stable, we’ve got Arctos, it’s great to have them in the sport and in the sports industry more generally and I know the other leagues are starting to follow the path that was led by Rob Manfred.”
Alex Rodriguez, a leader in the ownership group that just purchased the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, was on Kennedy’s panel and he praised FSG leadership for sharing their ideas and best practices with him as he ventured into the sports business world.
“If you think about when I was a Seattle Mariner and with the Texas Rangers and going into Fenway Park prior to their ownership taking over, it was a wholly different experience,” Rodriguez said, “from the music they played, from the pace, from the fans, from the enthusiasm — obviously I don’t want to talk about 2004 because I’m embarrassed, I’ve lost a lot of hair over that, thanks to Sam and Papi [David Ortiz] and company when they beat us in the ALCS in 2004.”
In his segment, Manfred said the decision to allow private equity in the sport was working out well.
“Private equity in minority stakes is another positive development for us,” said Manfred. “The Fenway [Sports Group] transaction I think is a good example of that, again looking for new sources of capital given the commitment of capital required to own a major league franchise.”
Manfred was asked what kind of memo he would write to MLB’s 30 teams when it came to lessons learned from the Super League debacle, which included a videotaped apology from Henry after Liverpool fans staged an overwhelming protest to the plan.
“I think that it is important for us as a league always to remember all 30 of us count,” said Manfred. “We all know that you get a bump when certain very large iconic franchises do well but you need all 30. The second thing is all 30 of those franchises have fans and it’s about those fans at the end of the day, what they want to consume and that’s always, always what should guide and drive our business.”