Bloomberg Power Players Miami Summit
May 6, 2022
Technology, sports, entertainment and culture are intersecting as never before, and dramatically reshaping the business world. The Bloomberg Power Players Summit Miami took a multi-angled look at trends in finance, sports, ecommerce, politics, cryptocurrency and more, amidst the excitement of Formula One’s debut in the Sunshine state, poised to be the new center of it all.
Click here to view the May 6 session.
- David Grutman, Hospitality Entrepreneur
- Steven Kalifowitz, Chief Marketing Officer, Crypto.com
- Nicole LaPointe Jameson, CEO, Evil Geniuses
- Ishveen Jolly, Founder & CEO, OpenSponsorship
- Greg Maffei, President & CEO. Liberty Media Corporation
- Keith Rabois, General Partner, Founders Fund
- Alex Rodriguez, Chairman & CEO, A-Rod Corp
- Barry Sternlicht, Chairman & CEO, Starwood Capital Group
- The Honorable Francis X. Suarez, Mayor of Miami
- Sonali Basak, Financial Correspondent, Bloomberg
- Ed Hammond, Senior Deals Reporter, Bloomberg
- Jason Kelly, Chief Correspondent, Bloomberg Quicktake
- Jennifer Zabasajja, Anchor, Bloomberg Quicktake
From the Field to the Front Office
Born and raised in Miami, and now a real estate and business investor based there, Alex Rodriguez, Chairman & CEO, A-Rod Corp, can say with conviction that “Nothing has rocked the city like F1.” It is that intersection between sports and technology that’s driving a different sports culture, as well as Miami as the “new Hamptons” for New Yorkers. He was not the only speaker to note the city-specific challenge of team loyalty. “You need to be a champion for people to show up.” While F1’s luxurious ambiance fits right in, Rodriguez spoke about the realities for residents; a lack of schools, infrastructure, affordable housing and synagogues. With a $72,000 annual income needed to afford a one-bedroom apartment, young talent will soon move on, he said.
From his perspectives as a major league athlete and now a team owner, he spoke about sports becoming a “retail anchor” on entertainment platforms, demonstrated by the storytelling of F1 on Netflix’s “Formula 1: Drive to Survive.”
Asked for his best advice, the baseball legend noted he ranks fifth in the history of strikeouts. “But I tell my girls, I have a master’s in getting back up.”
The Growth of Formula One
Greg Maffei, President & CEO, Liberty Media Corporation, which owns Formula One, noted that next year they will bring a third race to America – in Las Vegas – and that not everyone is happy about a perceived “Americanization” of the sport. “It’s a balancing act between the historical audience and the new fan base,” he said. That Netflix show has made it the fastest growing sport on social media and drawing a larger audience than Indy. That said, no American teams or drivers are in the foreseeable future, as the U.S. does not have programs that support the route to F1, that starts with five-year-olds competing in karting.
Long-time fans appreciate recent changes, including cost caps on spending to level the playing field and payouts split more evenly among teams to increase competitiveness. It’s why Ferrari has revived and Haas has come out of its slump, Maffei said.
There is a push to get a race in Africa, the last continental holdout (except for Antarctica, of course), he said. The potential expansion to more than 10 teams is not likely and the politics of a venue country rarely factor in. With the exemption of Russia, where F1 terminated its contract this year, it’s a nonissue. “If we responded to every political complaint,” Maffei said, “we’d race nowhere.”
Miami’s Business Boom
The Honorable Francis X. Suarez, Mayor of Miami spoke on a range of topics with an exuberance that matches the city. He called Miami’s inaugural F1 race, “the icing on the cake after 24 months of hypersonic growth.” That growth included $2 trillion in assets under management companies and a VC pipeline that grew by 200%, a track that would allow Miami to overtake San Francisco as the venture capital leader in the U.S.
What did it take to bring F1 there? Miami has leaned into the opportunities created by the industrial to digital disruption and generational changes.Suarez spoke about his cryptocurrency rivalry with his friend, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and MiamiCoin, which helps fund rent subsidies. As president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, he is inspired to scale a formula for crypto success and take it national.
Then there’s the potential for Elon Musk to headquarter in Miami, as well as other giants of industry. When it comes to state politics, Suarez finds little of concern as Miami forges its own way into a predicted golden future. “I haven’t spoken to the governor in about three years.”
Marketing the Modern Athlete
Connecting athletes with brands to endorse in the digital age is moving it beyond the old norms, according to Ishveen Jolly, Founder & CEO, OpenSponsorship. With the swing to social media promotions, a more diverse cross section of athletes are making deals, and influencing a wider audience.
Brands are also rethinking what they’re looking for. It includes a large following and where those followers are, great content and to a large degree, price. Athletes look for shorter terms, so they can do endorsements on a cyclical basis that works in their best interest, such as when they are performing well or want to raise cash.
“There’s a real opportunity to make sponsorship more global.” Jolly said, especially with the trend away from highly-localized fan bases.
The Future of Miami
Barry Sternlicht, Chairman & CEO, Starwood Capital Group described Miami as on an upward spiral, with smart infrastructure improvements that attract more and more people, who add to the richness of the diverse culture that defines it.
Asked about the Parental Rights in Education bill, Sternlicht said he supports it for what it really is. As for the fallout, “I think it was nonsense and it’s awful to go after Disney, which is wholesome. It was just distracting people from the real issues, the things this country should care about, which is education. If I were Governor DeSantis, I’d take his $12 billion surplus and put it behind teachers. That’s how you build a great state. That’s how you fix the schism in this country.””
Sternlicht went off on a political tangent that was not irrelevant, speaking passionately to political party changes that have left the majority without leadership and thinned parties “more concentrated with loonies,” DAs who don’t prosecute, the Progessive Movement being communism and the need for a national energy policy.
Designing Miami’s Nightlife
“Miami has arrived. It’s a city that should have F1,” said David Grutman, Hospitality Entrepreneur. “We were open during the pandemic and we were rippin’ it.” He echoed the assessment that Miami fans mostly show up for winners, adding that they also need celebrity. “They need to feel like they are going to an event.” He compared the Superbowl and F1 as “spectacle versus luxury.” In the same vein, tech, VCs and founders are raising the bar for hospitality with more sophisticated demands.
Grutman spoke about collaborating with Pharrell Williams on a dynamic restaurant and hotel, and working on a redux of Club Atlantis with unique offerings for guests, such as space balloon rides.
He gave a big nod to Gov. Ron DeSantis for keeping the state open, with a caveat. “We have a governor who’s pro business…unless you’re Disney.” Grutman was dubious about the potential success of large, off-site events held in conjunction with the F1 race weekend. His team will mostly observe, then sit down on Monday to debrief and begin major plans for next year.
The Evolution of Esports
Square at the intersection of sports and entertainment is esports, set to exceed $1 billion in revenues, according to Nicole LaPointe Jameson, CEO, Evil Geniuses. The modern era of entertainment is trending west from Asia-Pacific and the EU, carrying on its wave of increasing diversity, especially in terms of gender and the many multi-hyphenated creators that are grounded in gaming.
Jameson spoke about universities building large intramural programs around esports. As for the future, esports “needs to get out of its own way to be more commercially viable.” Part of that is a continued move away from the original demographic. “When rebuilding Evil Geniuses, we were thoughtful about not just checking marketing boxes. We knew we needed innovators and disruptors, and diverse talent.”
Miami’s Tech Scene
It was mid-pandemic, but Keith Rabois, General Partner, Founders Fund, made his move to Miami for the opportunities to invest and draw talent. “It’s the future of finance and tech because it has the most optimistic outlook, the best government and the happiest people.”
Rabois spoke to building PayPal and Founders being in early on SpaceX, attracted by Elon Musk’s high-convictions and willingness to double down. As for Musk buying Twitter, “one of the biggest leveraged buyouts ever” and achieving his free speech goals, “It’s doable, just not doable for normal humans.”
Spoiler alert: Founders is reinventing ecommerce. Rabois called it the next big thing and “a better version of Amazon,” that they will accomplish by buying up the “best” inventory – currently at about 60,000 SKUs not available on Amazon, “People overrate how much power Amazon has. We’re not afraid of competing with them.”
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