You have to hand it to Scott Wapner of CNBC. When he couldn’t get the cost of a TGL team from Rory McIlroy or Tom Werner, the Founder and Chairman of Fenway Sports Group (Boston Red Sox) which owns the Boston TGL team, he went to Marc Lasry, who is part owner of the San Francisco TGL team. And that’s when Wapner got more than that, including the investment goals of owners.
First came McIlroy and Werner on Halftime Report where Wapner wondered what would be the attraction for viewers.
“It’s innovative. It fuses regular golf with simulated golf. One of the things I learned in this process,” Werner said, “is that as many people played indoor golf last year as traditional grass golf.”
In addition, Werner pointed to the opportunity to partner with Rory McIlroy who he called “a transcendent figure in golf.”
According to McIlroy and Werner, calling TGL simulator golf isn’t really a good description of what the “product” will be.
They believe people will connect with the fact that they are playing golf indoors.
“I’m pretty confident that Jon’s a PGA Tour player.” — Rory McIlroy on Jon Rahm’s decision not to play TGL in 2024.
“It will look more like an NBA arena, and we’re trying to give people more that courtside experience. We’re going to be playing on a simulator screen, but it’s going to be 60 feet high and 60 feet wide,” McIlroy explained. “It’s going to be team play. You’re going to have the players interact amongst each other a lot more.”
Rory McIlroy also noted that they are borrowing some things from other sports like shot clocks and time outs that are not typically seen in golf in the US. Shot clocks are used in the World Long Drive events, however.
“Really, just trying to bring the game to a different demographic, whether that be other sports fans or fans that aren’t into golf and tune in to Monday night in prime time, and hopefully we can have it speak to them,” McIlroy added.
Five of the six teams have locations: Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.
Werner, when asked about the cost of the franchises, declined to reveal a number.
“We feel excited because of the connection Rory and his team have to Boston,” Werner said.
For those who do not know, there is a large contingent of Irish-Americans in the Boston area. McIlroy’s team includes Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott, and Tyrrell Hatton. Bradley is from Vermont, which is, distance-wise, close to Boston.
The team name is Boston Common Golf and the logo is green and white, like the Boston Celtics. The logo animal, though, is a big green frog, which should look interesting on team merchandise.
Then CNBC host Scott Wapner asked about offers that Fenway Sports might have made to the PGA Tour. Werner declined to be specific, and added that the players will be the ones to decide who their partners will be in the future.
When asked what “offer” might be accepted by the PGA Tour, Rory McIlroy did not answer, but said the great thing is that there is a lot of interest in golf.
“Golf has never been in a stronger shape or in a healthier place. I tell all my colleagues, there’s never been a better time to be a professional golfer,” McIlroy noted.
He confirmed that the players will decide the direction of the PGA Tour, adding that the players have a majority on the board.
“Hopefully we’ll have more to report in the next couple of months,” he added.
McIlroy was diplomatic, saying he would like to see a place for all golf organizations.
“Hopefully, when all this is said and done, I sincerely hope the PIF are involved and we can bring the game of golf back together,” he concluded.
That is a little more inclusive than he was being a year or so ago.
Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and PIF
Jon Rahm recently withdrew his interest in playing in the TGL format. Naturally, questions swirled about whether that meant Rahm would continue to play on the PGA Tour. Rory McIlroy to the rescue. He had just spoken to Rahm.
“I would be very, very surprised if that were to happen,” McIlroy said about Rahm’s interest in being a PGA Tour member. “Jon lives in Arizona, and the first season of TGL is going to be played in Florida. He just didn’t feel like he could give the commitment he needed.”
To participate, Rahm would be flying to Florida for every event, and realistically, that kind of commute would be difficult for anyone to give for many weeks in a row.
“We’re already in discussions in how we’re going to make it work for season two,” McIlroy added. “I’m pretty confident that Jon’s a PGA Tour player.”
Billionaire Investor Marc Lasry, Steph Curry and TGL
Marc Lasry, a billionaire who is Chairman and Co-founder of Avenue Capital Group, recently sold his stake in the Milwaukee Bucks for what was reported to be something near $3.5 billion.
Appearing as a guest on Closing Bell on CNBC, also hosted by Wapner, he discussed his interest in the TGL team in San Francisco which he owns along with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala. The announcement was made in late October.
While he was on CNBC primarily to discuss loan rates, the status of banks, how debt is being restructured and extended, results of mortgage rates, and the economy in general, Wapner asked Lasry about his interest in sports in general and then TGL specifically.
According to Lasry, he started his new Avenue Sports Fund because he sees opportunities there.
“It’s my view that the NBA and other leagues will keep on growing but I think they’ll grow kind of where they had, around 10% a year. That’s great, but I think you’ll have other opportunities in newer leagues, where you can grow at multiples of that.” – – Marc Lasry
While Lasry and other owners have sold NBA teams at high multiples, he thinks that it’s going to be hard to do that going forward. He thinks it would be hard to sell a team for seven times what was paid for it.
Avenue Sports Fund has already committed to buying other teams or sports assets. For example, according to Bloomberg, he is interested in purchasing basketball teams in Africa and sports teams in Asia. He is also interested in women’s sports.
“Obviously I’m a believer,” Lasry said about the TGL concept.
When asked what he paid, Lasry responded.
“I can say it was less than $100 million,” he said. “It was more than 25 and it was less than 100.”
Lasry felt the attraction is to make golf available for people to watch over two hours in prime time, to see players hitting the ball right away. The idea is to take away all the time used up walking.
In other words, it’s based on people having shorter and shorter attention spans.
“I think one of the problems people have with golf, unless you’re a huge golf fan, is it takes too long. So what we’re trying to do is have a league where everything’s going to happen in two hours,” Lasry explained. “We have all the best golfers. Rory’s in it, Tiger’s in it, a number of other golfers, so I think it’s got the possibility of being something huge.”
Regarding how it will work financially, the goal of any fund, according to Lasry, is to make two times the investment.
“The question is, is that over three years, five years or ten years,“ he noted.