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LeBron James and Drake Invest in Professional Golf’s PGA Tour

Just over a month ago, a group of financiers and sports team owners, led by Fenway Sports Group, said it would invest up to $3 billion in the PGA Tour, a watershed deal that gave players equity in the league as it fends off competition from the Saudi-backed LIV Golf.

What wasn’t reported then was that several powerful people in sports, music and entertainment had also invested personally. Two names are likely to draw attention: LeBron James, the superstar basketball player, and Drake, the rapper.

The investors are bringing more than money. F.S.G. and fellow backers, including the billionaires Steve Cohen, Arthur Blank and Marc Lasry, believe they can help reinvigorate the sport, particularly as the value of media rights soars. James and Drake are committing additional capital as “strategic investors,” and are expected to use their marketing power to help the tour broaden its audience. James and the PGA Tour commissioner, Jay Monahan, were at the home of Tom Werner, F.S.G.’s chairman, recently discussing just that, DealBook hears.

Fans may see the stars around the greens, perhaps in the same way Drake is a frequent courtside presence at Toronto Raptors games. “Golf can be so much more than a sport. I remember some of my best childhood memories was being on the golf course with my uncle,” Drake said in a statement to DealBook. “It’s one thing to invest in a team, but to help reimagine one of the biggest leagues in the world is an incredible opportunity and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

James and Drake aren’t new to sports investing. In 2021, James took a stake in F.S.G. — he’s actually named in the small print as an F.S.G. investor in a news release announcing the $3 billion deal — which owns the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool F.C. James’s investment is separate from F.S.G.’s involvement.

In 2022, James and Drake also invested in A.C. Milan, the Italian soccer club, alongside RedBird Capital Partners and the owners of the New York Yankees.

Here are other previously unidentified PGA Tour investors: The actor Chris Pratt; James’s business partner, Maverick Carter, and the player’s agent, Rich Paul; Jeremy Zimmer, the C.E.O. of United Talent Agency; and Steve Stoute, the founder of UnitedMasters and a longtime record and marketing executive.

The man behind the investments is Paul Wachter. The Los Angeles-based financial adviser-turned-investor runs Main Street Advisors, and has been involved in many celebrity and athlete-driven businesses including Beats by Dre and NTWRK’s purchase last month of Complex.

Apple is fined €1.8 billion ($2 billion) over music streaming. The E.U.’s competition regulator accused the tech giant of violating antitrust rules by preventing developers from informing consumers about alternative music services like Spotify. The decision is the first time the iPhone maker has been punished for breaching E.U. law, and comes after Spotify filed a complaint against Apple in 2019.

Oil prices tick up slightly after OPEC members’ latest move. Brent crude, the international benchmark, yo-yoed only a little this morning after Saudi Arabia and other top producers said they would continue to limit their output through June. The announcement was meant to prop up slumping oil prices hit by tepid global demand.

New polls deliver more bad news for President Biden on the economy. The latest survey by The Times and Siena College, which shows him trailing Donald Trump by five percentage points, shows that a majority of Americans think the economy is in poor condition. In a poll by The Wall Street Journal, nearly a third of respondents felt that economic conditions had improved during the past two years — but a large majority believed inflation was still too high.

An investor group raises its takeover bid for Macy’s. Arkhouse Management and Brigade Capital Management increased their offer to $24 a share, up 14 percent and valuing the retailer at $6.6 billion. It’s unclear whether that’s enough to bring Macy’s to the negotiating table; the department store chain recently introduced its own turnaround strategy.

Elon Musk tore open a rift in the technology world last week when he sued OpenAI and its C.E.O., Sam Altman.

That fight is about more than breach-of-contract allegations. It’s about the future of the technology — and other Silicon Valley insiders have aired their philosophical disagreements.

A reminder of Musk’s argument: OpenAI, which he helped fund for several years, was created as a nonprofit that would release its innovations to the public. He now accuses the organization of violating that principle when it built a for-profit arm. The final straw was Microsoft’s multibillion-dollar investment in that division that gave it an exclusive license to innovations like GPT-4.

Not everyone agrees with Musk. OpenAI executives disputed his claims, telling employees that they “do not reflect the reality of our work or mission.” And the venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, an investor in OpenAI, criticized Musk:

You jumped in early but didn’t stay committed. And real progress needed real funding. Many non-profits own for profit efforts.

Musk pushed back. But so, too, did Marc Andreessen, another OpenAI investor who supported Musk and responded that Khosla “is lobbying to ban open source.” That led to an interesting debate between Andreessen and Khosla about the dangers of rapidly advancing A.I. and whether it should be nationalized

Speaking of A.I. and the public good: Forty-five companies and tech executives have signed an open letter pledging to ensure that their work benefits humanity, DealBook is first to report. (The letter was planned before Musk’s lawsuit.)

From the letter, which was organized by the veteran investor Ron Conway:

While AI is unique in directly augmenting human thought, we expect its impact to be more akin to the printing press, the combustion engine, electricity, and the Internet. The balance of its good and bad impacts on humans will be shaped through the actions and thoughtfulness we as humans exercise. It is our collective responsibility to make choices that maximize AI’s benefits and mitigate the risks, for today and for future generations.

Others who signed include OpenAI, Meta, Google and Microsoft; the A.I. start-up Mistral; and the investors Coatue, Tim Draper and Khosla.


The fight between Universal Music Group and TikTok looks like a rerun of the streaming wars of the file-sharing era, pitting the music majors against a formidable digital force.

But some in the industry believe a move by the world’s biggest music company to pull its artists’ work off the platform could have even more profound consequences. And the specter of artificial intelligence looms over it all.

Here’s what the fight is about: Universal says TikTok should pay more to license its songs because the platform has become so big that it’s effectively underpaying, relative to its peers. The music company also wants TikTok to do more to protect its artists, like Taylor Swift and Drake, from the A.I. threat.

TikTok says Universal is jeopardizing its artists’ future by taking them off a giant platform for marketing and music discovery, especially for emerging singers.

Talks have hit a wall. Shou Chew, TikTok’s C.E.O., and other executives’ efforts to restart negotiations reportedly failed. The Universal boss, Lucian Grainge, doubled down on his warnings during an earnings call last week, saying there should be no “free rides” for TikTok.

What happens matters to the entire industry. TikTok is the top platform where young consumers, especially teenagers, find new music, according to MIDiA Research. TikTok is also transforming the music business, building what MIDiA calls the “post-streaming era,” defined by the rise of A.I. and the “consumer-creator.”

A.I. is a potential existential threat for the music labels. Universal says TikTok is being “flooded” with A.I.-generated music. As the platform embraces user-generated content, that issue has become a sticking point in talks.

TikTok wants royalties to be shared with fans, and Universal rejects that idea outright, according to The Financial Times. “A.I. will also allow social users — and even the platforms themselves — to simply spin up their own A.I.-generated music for posts, rather than using music created by human artists,” Tatiana Cirisano, an analyst at MIDiA, told DealBook. “I do understand why these developments are stoking labels’ fears.”

Tech billionaires including Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. Wall Street heavyweights like Larry Fink. Rihanna and Bollywood stars galore.

Those were among the V.I.P.s — a list that also included prime ministers, royalty and figures like Jared and Ivanka Kushner — who flew to Gujarat, India. They were there for this past weekend’s pre-wedding bash to toast Rhadika Merchant and Anant Ambani, the son of Mukesh Ambani, the head of Reliance Industries and Asia’s richest man.

Rihanna performed a lengthy set. (She reportedly was paid millions.) But the three-day extravaganza was a mere taste of things to come: The actual wedding is set for July.


It’s a busy week with payrolls, primaries, the State of the Union address and crucial policymaking meetings in China. Here’s what to watch.

Tuesday: It’s Super Tuesday. Voters head to the polls in 15 states, including California, Texas and North Carolina. The big question: Could this be Nikki Haley’s last stand?

Elsewhere, China’s “Two Sessions” conference begins in Beijing. Investors will be watching for an official 2024 G.D.P. target and any signs of policy moves to kick-start the economy.

Wednesday: Jay Powell, the Fed chair, is scheduled to begin two days of testimony on Capitol Hill. He’s expected to stress that there’s no urgent need to cut interest rates.

Thursday: President Biden is set to deliver his State of the Union address. In addition to talking up his economic accomplishments, he is expected to call for lower health care costs and higher taxes on corporations and the rich.

Friday: It’s jobs day. Economists have forecast that employers added 190,000 jobs last month, a big fall from last month. A reminder: The January report was a stunner, with the payroll figure coming in well above Wall Street’s estimates.

Deals

Policy

  • A federal judge in Alabama blocked a Treasury Department effort to collect more information from small businesses to help fight money laundering. (NYT)

  • Bayer is said to be lobbying state governments to limit its legal liability for its Roundup weedkiller, the subject of a wave of lawsuits. (FT)

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