Axios Pro Rata

A green watering can with a dollar sign painted on it.

December 13, 2023

Top of the Morning

Photo illustration of Shohei Ohtani with a dollar sign on his baseball cap.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The Los Angeles Dodgers this week signed two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani to a 10-year, $700 million contract that's the largest ever in pro sports. For context, the sad-sack Oakland Athletics paid less for their entire roster over the past 10 years.

  • Most of the money is deferred into the decade after Ohtani's contract expires, meaning he'll get paid just $2 million next season but $68 million each year between 2034-2043.

Why it matters: If such contracts become the norm, they could become a liability drag on future MLB team sale prices.

By the numbers: The $700 million is a bit of a misnomer, perhaps intended to top what soccer star Lionel Messi recently got in Miami.

  • Not because Ohtani won't get every dime (he will), but because inflation and depreciation brings the effective price closer to $500 million.
  • Ohtani is partially betting on lower inflation in his home country of Japan than in the U.S., plus his ability to avoid California taxes once he's no longer an active Dodgers player.
  • The Dodgers are betting that the deal will help them own the Japanese market, much like the Seattle Mariners once did with Ichiro Suzuki, and bang out the park every night for a decade.
  • Both sides are assuming Ohtani will be able to pitch again in 2025, despite recently undergoing his second major elbow surgery, although the contract is guaranteed even if he's just a hitter.

The big picture: This is hardly the first deferred contract in baseball. For example, the Boston Red Sox last offseason signed Rafael Devers to an 11-year, $331 million deal that reportedly includes around $75 million of payments between 2034-2043.

  • And then there's Bobby Bonilla, who retired in 2001 but who's still getting paid annually by the New York Mets via a dunderheaded buyout agreement.
  • All of this is allowed by Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement, but don't be surprised to see owners try to close the loophole. Much like the Premiere League just did with amortized transfer fees that Chelsea F.C. used to bypass league limits.
  • Fun fact: The LA Dodgers and Chelsea ownership groups have several names in common.

The bottom line: The only certainties in life are death, taxes, and the increasing value of pro sports clubs.

  • Mark Walters and company bought the Dodgers for around $2 billion in 2012, and Forbes pegs its current value at around $4.8 billion.
  • If he chooses to sell before 2043, when Walters would be in his early 80's, he's certain to make a hefty profit. Even if the buyer subtracts what's still owed to Ohtani.
  • But now imagine if the Dodgers (and other teams) have dozens of deferred contracts, because everyone was emboldened by the Ohtani deal and not stopped by the league. Those liabilities get a lot more significant. And, suddenly, that price appreciation could run into a Bobby Bonilla-sized wall.

The BFD

Illustration of a gavel handle made from the Amazon logo

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Zulily, an online retailer owned by private equity firm Regent LP, is shutting down and blaming Amazon via an antitrust lawsuit.

Why it's the BFD: This isn't the first time that an e-commerce company has accused Amazon of abusing its market power, although it's the first to leverage information contained in the FTC's recent lawsuit.

Backstory: Seattle-based Zulily once was an e-commerce darling and an early VC-backed "unicorn," going public in 2013 at a $2.7 billion valuation. Two years later it was acquired by Liberty Interactive's QVC for upwards of $2.4 billion in cash and stock, before Regent bought it earlier this year.

  • Zulily focused on products for parents of young kids, and often touted on its website how its prices were cheaper than those of Amazon.
  • According to its lawsuit, however, Amazon in 2019 began targeting Zulily by, among other things, forcing common suppliers to require that Zulily raise its prices on their products so as to match Amazon's.
  • Regent isn't mentioned at all in the 57-page lawsuit, even though it acquired Zulily well after Amazon began its alleged tactics.

Venture Capital Deals

πŸš€ True Anomaly, a Centennial, Colo.-based maker of small satellites for surveillance and reconnaissance of space objects, raised $100m. Riot Ventures led, and was joined by Eclipse, ACME Capital, Menlo Ventures, Narya, 645 Ventures, Rocketship.vc, Champion Hill Ventures, and FiveNine Ventures. https://axios.link/3GEQ3CP

β€’ Essential AI, an SF-based developer of full-stack AI products, raised $56.5m in Series A funding. March Capital led, and was joined by AMD, Franklin Venture Partners, Google, KB Investment, Nvidia, and Thrive Capital. https://axios.link/46S2gid

πŸš‘ Twin Health, a Mountain View, Calif.-based metabolic care startup, raised $50m in Series C funding, as first reported by Axios Pro. Temasek led, and was joined by insiders Iconiq Growth, Sofina, Peak XV, and Helena. https://axios.link/3toQNJf

πŸš‘ Freya Biosciences, a developer of women's reproductive immunotherapies with offices in Boston and Copenhagen, raised $38m in Series A funding. Sofinnova Partners and OMX Ventures co-led, and were joined by The Export and Investment Fund of Denmark, Angelini Ventures, Mike Jafar Family Office, CE-Ventures, Corundum Systems Biology, and Indaco Venture Partners. https://axios.link/3RDF0A1

β€’ Aye Finance, an Indian digital lending platform to small companies, raised $37m in Series F funding. British International Investment led, and was joined by Waterfield Fund of Funds and insider A91 Partners. https://axios.link/3tcrsCp

β€’ Zuper, a Seattle-based provider of provider of field service management and customer engagement software, raised $32m in Series B funding. FUSE led, and was joined by Prime Ventures. www.zuper.co

β€’ Copia Global, a Kenyan e-commerce startup, raised $20m in new Series C extension funding from Enza Capital, LGT, Goodwell Investments, U.S. DFC, DEG, Elea, Perivoli Foundation, and Sorenson Foundation. https://axios.link/480ATUM

β€’ Pivot, a French procurement and spend management startup, raised €20m in Series A funding from Visionaries, Emblem, Anamcara, and Oliver Samwer. https://axios.link/3t8ctcK

β€’ Verve Motion, a Cambridge, Mass.-based maker of robotic exosuits for factory workers, raised $20m in Series B finding, Cybernetix Venturesled, and was joined by Construct Capital, Pillar VC, and OUP. https://axios.link/3Rmshk1

β€’ Guardz, an Israeli small business cybersecurity startup, raised $18m in Series A funding. Gilot Capital Partners led, and was joined by ClearSky and insiders Hanaco Ventures, iAngels, and GKFF Ventures. https://axios.link/3Np5vH6

β€’ Dynamic Labs, a developer of non-custodial embeddable wallet tools, raised $16.5m in Series A funding. a16z led, and was joined by Founders Fund. www.dynamic.xyz

β€’ Nonco, a digital asset brokerage firm, raised $10m. Valor Capital Group and Hack VC co-led, and were joined by Morgan Creek Digital, CMCC, Lvna Capital, Theta Capital, Bullish, Bastion Trading, and Libra Capital Ventures. www.nonco.com

β€’ Laredo, developer of an AI-driven platform for code generation, raised $8.5m in seed funding co-led by Radical Ventures and Horizons Ventures. https://axios.link/46XLTAC

🌎 Metafuels, a Swiss developer of sustainable aviation fuel, raised €8m in seed funding from Energy Impact Partners and Contrarian Ventures. https://axios.link/46XmKpK

πŸš‘ Season Health, a Sacramento-based food-as-medicine startup, raised $7m from Inception Health and Ziegler Link-age Fund. https://axios.link/41gV1iR

β€’ Yoii, a Japanese revenue-based financing platform, raised $5.5m in Series A funding. Emellience Partners led, and was joined by Itochu Technology Ventures and FFG Venture Business Partners. https://axios.link/3uSAq8d

πŸš‘ I-Virtual, a French med-tech startup that measures vital signs via video selfies, raised €3m in second-round funding from backers like Malakoff Humanis. https://axios.link/4afAdwb

πŸš‘ Certainly Health, an Albany, N.Y.-based marketplace for booking medical and cosmetic care with upfront prices, raised $2.3m co-led by Pacific 8 Ventures and YC. www.certainlyhealth.com

β€’ LouΓ©lec, a Canadian electric car sharing startup, raised $3m from Desjardins. www.louelec.ca

Private Equity Deals

πŸš‘ Accel-KKR invested in Ntracts, an Indianapolis-based provider of contract lifecycle management solutions for health-care orgs. www.ntracts.com

β€’ Apollo Global Management is considering a Β£5b takeover offer for London-based Pension Insurance Corp., per Sky News. https://axios.link/4ajujKh

β€’ Bain Capital agreed to buy a control stake in Eleda, a Swedish infrastructure projects and services firm reportedly being valued at around €1.5b (including debt), from Altor. https://axios.link/46WFlSM

β€’ Breitling, a Swiss luxury watchmaker owned by Partners Group, agreed to acquire watch brand Universal Geneve from Stelux (HK: 84) for around $68m. https://axios.link/3RmXOCB

β€’β€’ Harvest Partners acquired Road Safety Services, an Omaha, Neb.-based infrastructure services platform focused on road safety, from Parallel49 Equity. www.roadssinc.com

⚑ InfraRed Capital Partners acquired partial stakes in an Ohio solar project and Texas wind farm from Shell (NYSE: SHEL). https://axios.link/41hIpI0

β€’ KKR is in advanced talks to buy Iris Software, a British back-office software provider, from Hg for around Β£3b, per Bloomberg. https://axios.link/3tdiDIy

πŸš‘ Kohlberg & Co. completed its buyout of Worldwide Clinical Trials, a Morrisville, N.C.-based contract research org, from The Jordan Co. (which retained a minority stake). https://axios.link/3OX3N0Z

β€’ Ncontracts, a Brentwood, Tenn.-based portfolio company of Gryphon Investors, acquired Quantivate, a Woodinville, Wash.-based provider of GRC solutions for banks and credit unions. Sellers include Luminate Capital Partners. www.quantivate.com

β€’ Nintex, a Bellevue, Wash.-based portfolio company of TPG, acquired Skuid, a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based low-code cloud platform. www.nintex.com

β€’ TAS Environmental Services, a Fort Worth, Texas-based portfolio company of Blue Point Capital Partners, acquired Environmental Concepts & Services, a provider of industrial waste transportation and non-hazardous waste treatment services. www.taslp.com

β€’ Verdantas, a Dublin, Ohio-based portfolio company of RTC Partners, acquired GRP Engineering, a Petoskey, Mich.-based power utility consulting and electrical engineering firm. www.verdantas.com

Public Offerings

πŸš‘ Walgreens Boots Alliance (Nasdaq: WBA) is weighing a spinoff of its U.K. pharmacy chain, which could be valued at around Β£7b in an IPO, per Bloomberg. https://axios.link/48gpxeG

Liquidity Events

β€’ Bain Capital sold a $448m stake in listed Indian lender Axis Bank via a block trade. https://axios.link/3RGxa99

β€’ Carlyle is seeking to sell or list Acrotec Group, a Swiss maker of luxury watch components that could fetch around $4.6b, per Bloomberg. https://axios.link/4aavhbM

πŸš‘ Centerbridge Partners and Vistria Group are seeking a buyer for Help at Home, a Chicago-based at-home care provider that could fetch at least $3b, per Bloomberg. https://axios.link/3RDhzXQ

More M&A

β€’ Codorus Valley (Nasdaq: CVLY) agreed to merge with Orrstown Financial (Nasdaq: ORRF) in a $207m all-stock deal that will form a Pennsylvania bank with $5.2b in assets. https://axios.link/47WLnUY

β€’ Kudu Investment Management acquired a minority stake in Sage Advisory Services, an Austin, Texas-based wealth manager with more than $23b in assets under management and advisement. www.kuduinvestment.com

β€’ Rogers Communications (TSE: RCI) agreed to sell its stake in Canadian telco Cogeco Communications (TSE: CGO) to CDPQ for C$829m. https://axios.link/3NrNl7I

Fundraising

🌎 Ara Partners, a PE and infrastructure firm focused on industrial decarbonization, raised over $3b for its third fund and related co-investment funds. www.arapartners.com

🌎 Atlantic Equity Partners is targeting $150m for a decarbonization-focused real estate fund. www.atlanticequitypartners.com

β€’ Oaktree Capital Management raised $3b for its third special situations fund. www.oaktreecapital.com

β€’ Vistara Growth of Canada held a first close on more than US$150m for its US$400m-targeted fifth fund. www.vistaragrowth.com

It's Personnel

β€’ Cyril Demaria joined Julius Baer as head of private markets strategy. https://axios.link/3GDVcv9

β€’ Caroline Follas joined Cathay Capital as a Paris-based private equity partner. She previously was with Merieux Equity Partners. https://axios.link/3RBV0mi

β€’ Kakao, a troubled South Korean internet giant, said that the head of its corporate VC arm, Shina Chung, will take over as CEO. https://axios.link/3uZ7dbW

🌎 Kiko Ventures, a clean-tech VC firm, hired: Arielle Schacter (co-founder of Barclays' sustainable and impact banking group), Marius Evers (Global Founders Capital), and Paul Eisenberg (founder of Econos). www.kiko.vc

β€’ Pritzker Private Capital promoted David Gau to president and Brad West to COO. www.ppcpartners.com

β€’ Kamil Salame, formerly of CVC Capital Partners, is joining Cranemere as CEO. Cranemere founder Vincent Mai will continue to serve as chair. www.cranemere.com

β€’ Eric Shehadeh stepped down as head of M&A and corp dev at First Abu Dhabi Bank, after just seven months on the job, per Bloomberg. https://axios.link/4akeyTG

β€’ Wyan Yarbrough, former head of tech investing for BlackRock's growth investment strategies, joined secondaries-focused Next Round Capital as director of research. www.nextroundcap.com

Final Numbers: Inflation

Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Chart: Axios Visuals

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