Peter Lattman and Steve Eder, write that first, there was old-fashioned gambling on football; then, the fantasy leagues. And now, thanks to Wall Street, fans can buy a stake in their favorite player.
On Thursday, a start-up company announced a new trading exchange for investors to buy and sell interests in professional athletes. Backed by executives from Silicon Valley, Wall Street and the sports world, the company plans to create stocks tied to an athlete’s financial performance.
After considering a number of possibilities for its inaugural initial public offering, the company found a charismatic candidate in Arian Foster, the Pro Bowl running back of the Houston Texans.
Investors in the deal will receive stocks linked to Mr. Foster’s future earnings, which includes the value of his playing contracts, corporate endorsements and appearance fees.
The company, Fantex Holdings, has grand ambitions beyond a Foster I.P.O. — it hopes to sign up more football players and other athletes, as well as celebrities like pop singers and Hollywood actors.
If such an investment sounds speculative, that is because it is. In a filing for the Foster deal with securities regulators, Fantex laid out 37 pages of risk factors, including a possible career-ending injury or a performance slump.
Risks aside, the offering is intended to capitalize on the mammoth popularity of the National Football League and fantasy football, where fans draft players and score points for touchdowns, yardage and other notable plays during the season.
If thousands of fans are willing to pay as much as $250 for an Arian Foster jersey, the thinking goes, why wouldn’t they pay up for a few shares of Arian Foster stock?
A market of star athletes calls to mind other unusual investments tied to entertainers. In the late 1990s, a financier created Bowie Bonds, a small bond issue that paid interest from the current and future revenue of 25 albums by the rock musician David Bowie.
The brokerage firm Cantor Fitzgerald runs the Hollywood Stock Exchange, a marketplace for bets on the fortunes of movies and their stars, but participants use only play money.
Fantex wants its venture to be anything but make-believe. Investors can now register with the company and place orders for the I.P.O. The company will market the I.P.O. in the coming weeks, offering 1.06 million shares at $10 a share, or $10.6 million worth of stock. If demand is insufficient, the company may cancel the deal.
Mr. Foster will receive a $10 million payment from Fantex upon consummation of the offering. (The balance of the I.P.O. covers the deal’s costs.) In exchange for the payment, Mr. Foster has promised to pay Fantex 20% of his future earnings.
The company is effectively financing the $10 million payment to Mr. Foster by raising money from retail investors in an I.P.O. In its filings, Fantex says it believes that the stock is intended to track the economic performance of Mr. Foster’s future brand income.
Still, shareholders will not have a direct investment in Mr. Foster or any control over his brand. The company did say it expected to pay a dividend to holders of the Foster stock.
Shares will trade exclusively on an exchange operated by Fantex. The tracking stock will increase in value if Mr. Foster raises his earnings potential with standout play or increased sponsorships.
Then, the investor can try to sell his shares at a higher price. Fantex will make a 1% commission from both the buyer and seller on the trades.
Buck French, the company’s co-founder and chief executive, demurred when asked to predict how the stock might behave in a secondary market.
“We don’t know how it will trade,” he said.
Mr. French made a fortune during the dot-com boom when, in 2000, he sold OnLink, a software company he founded, to Siebel Systems for about $600 million. One of his Fantex co-founders, David M. Beirne, was a general partner at Benchmark Capital, the venture capital firm that was one of eBay’s earliest investors.
Mr. French said Mr. Beirne conceived of the Fantex concept more than a decade ago when working on a sports-related venture with John Elway, the former Denver Broncos quarterback.
“Fantex represents a powerful new opportunity for professional athletes, and I wish it were available during my playing days,” Mr. Elway, a member of Fantex’s board, said in a statement.
Wall Street executives have also joined the company. Fantex’s president is John Rodin, co-president of the hedge fund Glenview Capital Management and a Goldman Sachs alumnus. Its chief technology officer is Joshua S. Levine, a former senior executive at E*Trade and Deutsche Bank.
A big question is whether other athletes are on the sidelines for a Fantex I.P.O. Mr. French declined to discuss future deals.
On one hand, athletes and their agents could view Fantex as a compelling proposition, providing athletes with a large upfront payment for giving up a certain percentage of their future earnings. Such a payment could act as a hedge against an unexpected downturn in a player’s career.
But advisers could counsel against trading a piece of their future earnings for a big lump sum, as some athletes are notorious for squandering money.
Other considerations are the specter of insider trading violations, and complying with the federal securities laws. Mr. Foster, his friends and his financial team will have to be especially circumspect when discussing issues that might affect his earnings.
A fifth-year veteran from the University of Tennessee, Mr. Foster, 27, has led all running backs in rushing touchdowns two of the last three seasons, while racking up well over 1,000 yards each year. In March 2012, Houston signed Mr. Foster to a contract worth up to $43.5 million over five years. He has a handful of endorsement contracts, including with Under Armour and Kroger Texas.
“We see Arian as a unique, multidimensional individual, a trailblazer,” said Mr. French, who added that Fantex cold-called Mr. Foster’s agent to pitch the idea.
Yet during the first six weeks of this season, Mr. Foster’s production has flagged. He has just one rushing touchdown. Heading into the year, there was concern over various injuries. Off the field, Foster admitted in a documentary released in September that he potentially violated N.C.A.A rules by accepting money when he was a college player.
Those issues underscore the risk of betting on Mr. Foster’s brand, or that of any professional athletes, especially N.F.L. players. Unlike some other sports, N.F.L. contracts often are not fully guaranteed, meaning players are often cut and forced to find a new team, sometimes for a lesser contract.
For investors, the long-term outlook for a player will be difficult to handicap. If a player’s fortunes suffer and the tracking stock declines, there will be no rescue financing from a Private equity firm — or an investor like Warren E. Buffett — to stabilize the share price.
And unlike a stockholder of a public company, investors have no corporate governance rights.
There are no plans to hold annual meetings with the athlete, or quarterly conference calls.
Despite all the risks, some football fans seem poised to buy in. As one tweeted on Thursday after reading the news: “Wow! This is awesome.”
Culled from the NYtimes Dealbook via http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/10/17/want-a-piece-of-a-star-athlete-now-you-really-can-buy-one/?
To learn more visit https://fantex.com/