If your naivety gets the best of you, and you venture over to this website that’s been in the news called Fantex, you’ll read that it deftly describes itself as “the first registered trading platform that lets you buy and sell stock linked to the value and performance of a pro athlete brand.”
Legally, it smells. Ethically, it wreaks havoc.
Morally, and by pretty much all other measures, it’s bankrupt.
How this window-dressing company has managed to create and promote a pseudo-transcendent business model while, for the moment, avoiding the inevitable demise of a realtor selling beach-front property in Lancaster may be news unto itself.
Fantex Brokerage Services LLC, already self-reporting that it’s $2.8 million broke since its inception in Sept., 2012, has wormed its way into the delusional world of fantasy sports, where false prosperity is reduced to bragging rights along with a missed rent payment.
So now, the guy who owns a team called “Foster: Australian for Touchdown” is led to believe he can take this relationship to the next level. With something as simple as a $10 stake, or $100 – aw, heck, make it an even grand — he is told he can profit share on the future earnings of Houston Texans running back Arian Foster. In perpetuity. Or hopefully longer than the time Foster continues to be listed as “questionable” with a hamstring injury for Sunday’s game against Indianapolis.
Someone with a team called “The Vernon Curve” can wait for San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis to hit the mother load of post-career endorsements, broadcasting opportunities and maybe becoming a player agent.
Foster and Davis, as you may have heard, happen to be the first two athletes involved in this pyramid stream of unconsciousness. Not just as endorsers, but benefiting with supposed guaranteed money for betting on themselves.
(Right about now, even the guy who owns “Shonneshank Redemption” knows how this will play out – there’s no pile of money under a volcanic piece of glass in Buxton, Maine at the end of a long rock wall by the big oak tree that’s going to make everything OK).
The way Fantex has figured this out, it will give Foster $10 million for a 20 percent stake in his future earnings, and Davis $4 million for 10 percent, based on money it plans to raise in an IPO once the Security and Exchange Commission gives it the OK.
The company says this will come by selling a “convertible tracking stock” for each player. Meaning, anyone who thinks they’re buying a piece of Foster or Davis are actually and ultimately only getting a stake of Fantex.
Fantex will create its own closed buying and selling exchange for its fan-based investors. Fantex also decides, ultimately, how that money can be funneled back into its own coffers, at its own discretion, per its own rules.
Read the fine print. It’s all there in a 150-page S-1 prospectus it had to file with the SEC just to get this far.
Fantax devoted nearly 40 pages of that filing with red-flag warnings about what could go wrong, starting with its own financial situation..
Back to the website, it says at the bottom: “This offering is highly speculative and the securities involve a high degree of risk. Investing in a Fantex, Inc. tracking stock should only be considered by persons who can afford the loss of their entire investment.”
A high-roller horse bettor throwing money around at this weekend’s Breeders’ Cup had better know that one by heart. Along with the phrase: “Past performances are no indication of future earnings.”
A lot of the philosophy of this, without getting into financial mumbo-jumbo loan-speak, is using a derivative that led to the recent housing crisis – basing a price that’s based on the price of something else, or making bets with no real assets to back it up.
In this scenario, Foster and Davis are now reduced to “brands,” and wagering on them like thoroughbreds heading toward an imaginary finish line of gold bullion.
Most sports sites who’ve done stories about Fantex are enamored with the fun-sized concept of big boy Wall Street power brokering. You’ll need to investigate further just how messed up this whole thing can be by looking at more reputable business publications.
Stay away, they all seem to say. Unless you work at Fantex and stand to profit on other’s starry-eyed lack of accountability. Even a website that supports a clown like Jim Creamer knows you don’t invest in Jerry Kramer.
This discussion can go pretty deep, as we found with Reuters writer Felix Salmon. After he spelled out how the language of this whole thing is “deliberately dehumanizing,” he concludes: “Before you put any money into Fantex, ask yourself two questions: First, do you want to make a really stupid investment? And second, do you really want to buy shares in a company which treats young black men as property to be acquired and then privately taxed? Because that’s exactly what you’re doing.”
Hey, whoa. All we thought we were doing here was having a little chillaxing jocularity. Stop making us feel guilty for wanting to blow up our nest egg.
For years, in the “real” sports world, syndicates have been formed to help a young golfer or boxer sustain a living while they possibly mature into a potential champion. Here, it’s just got more impersonal.
It’s starting to read like a sidetracked episode of “Shark Tank.” Watch Mark Cuban’s head start to explode as Fantex tries to buy Dirk Nowitzki’s future earnings, pretending to have his own interests protected.
Where illogically thinking fans get sidetracked here is assuming that as Foster and Davis pile up stats on the field, it will boost his stock value. But they are, of course, not related at all. Unless he also has a top-notch agent, financial planner and lawyer on retainer.
For anyone with a $10 investment in Foster to break even, Foster would need to sign another $50 million contract at the age of 30 going into the 2017 season. Good luck there. Should Foster clear that non-guaranteed deal, then get another five years at a network broadcaster and clear another $1 million, that’s only more 20 cents in your pocket, according to our math.
When Foster is 50 and relaxing in the Caribbean, none of his shares would have any potential future earnings. Try selling it now.
There’s all kinds of goofiness that can happen with this. What if Foster perishes in a plane crash related to work travel – are investors entitled to his life insurance? What if someone like Stephen Spielberg buys up all the worthless 10,000 Foster shares down the road at a penny each, inserts him into one of his movies (he must appear as himself), has the studio pay his salary and then recoups his rightful 20 percent cut?
The semi-cool part, maybe, is you buy your kid a share of Arian Foster as a Christmas gift and let him hang the certificate on the wall.
The realistic part, again, is that an actual investment, it’s more than awful. It’s vanity awful. Even worse is seeing someone like John Elway sign on as a Fantex adviser, and then being quoted: “Fantex represents a powerful new opportunity for professional athletes and I wish it were available during my playing days.”
(Unfortunately, car dealer Elway isn’t a quick learner in this web minefield. A story on Grantland.com points out that he once teamed up with Fantex cofounder and venture capitalist David M. Beirne in the 1990s on a project called MVP.com, where Elway, Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan loaned their name-power to an e-commerce site miscalculated its own worth and disappeared in 2001).
The gap appears to be closing between a guy who potentially leads the NFL in sacks and what’s accomplished by a loan shark at Goldman Sachs. It’s starting to have that slimy feel of the Al Pacino-Matthew McConaughey flick “Two For the Money.”
Get-rich-eventually stories like this should make you take personal stock in just how duped people can be when it comes to buying into a stock offering. How insecure one still must be about the SEC’s governing power.
Don’t get burned by Fantex or anything that looks like it. Specifically, keep the lid tighter on your fandom. Foster better judgment in general.