Tuesday October 3, 2023

How Peyton Manning Could Parlay Omaha Productions Into NFL Ownership

  • Over a half-dozen firms have tried to invest in Manning’s Omaha Productions.
  • Will Manning eventually raise capital to buy an NFL team?
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
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Peyton Manning has worn many hats during his career — five-time MVP, two-time Super Bowl champion, Hall of Famer, brand ambassador, and half of the popular “ManningCast” with his brother Eli.

All those jobs could be preparing the 46-year-old football legend for his ultimate role: NFL team owner.

Manning’s Los Angeles-based Omaha Productions gives him the kind of high-growth business asset that could transform him from multimillionaire to billionaire — and maybe the majority owner of an NFL franchise.

Not a minority owner. Not window dressing for an investment group looking to exploit his famous name. Manning could be calling the shots alongside power players like Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots.

Don’t believe it? Consider this: More than a half-dozen companies have already tried to invest in the fast-growing entertainment company, sources told Front Office Sports — and Omaha’s not even two years old.

It’s Peyton’s World

The NFL’s billionaire owners club is an exclusive fraternity — it even rejected future U.S. President Donald Trump’s bid to buy the Buffalo Bills in 2014. But the Mannings are NFL royalty.

If Peyton Manning can raise enough capital to buy a franchise, the league’s owners would likely welcome him with open arms, said sources.

  • Manning was one of the NFL’s most popular and personable players over his 18-year career.
  • That’s why every league media partner from Fox Sports to ESPN has pursued him relentlessly since his retirement in 2016. 

“The world is his oyster. Peyton can do whatever he wants to do — which is a nice position to be in,” said consultant Lee Berke, who’s worked with over 50 sports franchises including the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Omaha declined to comment, but Eli Manning told Front Office Sports his older brother is excited about the company’s potential. Among many projects, Omaha produces “Peyton’s Places” and “Eli’s Places” for the ESPN+ streaming platform. 

“I don’t know what the future is, but Peyton works hard on it. This is something he’s committed to,” said Eli Manning. “He’s done a great job building a lot of new content through it. I think he’s having fun along the way.”

Growing Empire

The three-way business relationship between Omaha, the NFL, and ESPN owner Disney keeps growing. The league is putting “The Sheriff” in charge of key properties:

  • The NFL and Disney have tasked Omaha with reformatting the Pro Bowl into a Las Vegas-based flag football event, climaxing with a game simulcast on Disney’s ABC and ESPN on Feb. 5, 2023.
  • Earlier this year, Manning executive-produced the league’s “NFL Honors” award show on ABC.
  • The Emmy-award winning “Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli” is back for a second season on ESPN2 with 10 games, including an NFL Wild Card telecast.
  • With giant Amazon looking to steal the “ManningCast,” ESPN extended its deal with Peyton Manning and Omaha through the 2024 season.

Omaha has also produced MegaCasts for the PGA Tour starring Joe Buck and Michael Collins, as well as Rob Gronkowski’s “GronkCast” for an ESPN/UFC pay-per-view.

“Omaha has reimagined MegaCasts the same way [ESPN Films’] 30 For 30 reimagined documentaries,” said a source.

This fall, Omaha will also team up with Pat McAfee for a six-game package of college football games. On the sports betting side, Omaha has a content deal with Caesars Sportsbook.

It’s moving into the entertainment space, too.

Eli Manning’s undercover role at Penn State as “Chad Powers” has caught the attention of Hollywood, as TV execs now want to created a scripted series around the fictional QB a la Ted Lasso. Omaha, meanwhile, has filed trademark applications for “Chad Powers” and “Think Fast. Run Fast.”

Role Models

Manning could follow the lucrative path blazed by athletes-turned-moguls Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

  • After buying the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets for $275 million million in 2010, Jordan is now worth $1.7 billion, according to Forbes. Jordan’s nearly 40-year business partnership with Nike and his eponymous “Jordan” brand helped build his fortune to the point where the former Tar Heel could buy his home-state team.
  • James’ entertainment company SpringHill is now valued at over $725 million, following a round of financing from Nike, Boston Red Sox owner Fenway Sports Group, RedBird Capital, and Epic Games. 
  • LeBron owns stakes in MLB’s Boston Red Sox, the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, the Premier League’s Liverpool FC, and Serie A’s AC Milan.

During an episode of “The Shop,” James said he wants to own an NBA expansion franchise in Las Vegas, joining Jordan as majority owner of an NBA franchise.

Peyton Manning could follow a similar game plan.

The 14-time Pro Bowler earned nearly $249 million on the field during his career with the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, according to Spotrac

Given his popularity as a brand ambassador on Madison Avenue, Manning boasts an estimated net worth of a quarter of a billion dollars.

The Future Market?

Manning lives in the Denver area. During the recent auction for the Broncos, he was approached by practically every bidder to join their proposed ownership teams (new controlling owner Rob Walton also wants him in the fold). The Broncos fetched $4.65 billion, the highest amount ever paid for an American sports team.

Becoming a controlling NFL owner involves a much heavier vetting process — one largely absent regarding minority investment.

  • The league mandates that 30% of the purchase price has to be cash.
  • With the Broncos going for $4.65 billion, that forced Walton to lay out nearly $1.4 billion of liquid assets. 
  • League sources told FOS that there are two teams most likely to go on the market: the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Commanders.

But there are a lot of ifs when it comes to whether either will go up for sale in the immediate future. 

Colts owner Jim Irsay told Bloomberg that there are “going to be a few” franchises that he expects to change hands, including the Seahawks. 

“Seattle — with Paul Allen, my friend, unfortunately passing away, and that team is in a trust — is going to become available, I’d imagine, in the 2024 range,” Irsay said.

The Commanders have drawn heavy speculation, especially as the team and owner Dan Snyder remain under investigation by Congress as well as a second independent NFL probe led by former SEC chair Mary Jo White.

While there have been regular reports this year about Snyder either being urged to sell by other owners or facing removal, which requires the approval of 24 owners, sources told FOS that the owners are unlikely to act before either Congress and/or White have finished their investigations and released their findings.

A source with knowledge of the situation told FOS that White “is close” to finishing her probe. The House Oversight Committee, which hasn’t made a public comment about its probe in two months, is expected to finish its inquiry by year’s end.

Peyton’s Places

Sure, Manning was the white whale chased by virtually every NFL broadcaster — but there might have been a very good reason Manning said no before working with ESPN on his own terms. 

Ultimately, Manning may not want to be an NFL coach, a general manager, or traditional game broadcaster. 

Instead, as tycoon Gordon Gekko said in “Wall Street,” he’d prefer to own.

“I think Omaha is a means to an end toward team ownership for him,” said one source. “Peyton wants to sit in the owner’s box, not the broadcast booth.”

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