ShareThis Page

In a twist on stock market, company to offer shares of an NFL player

| Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 11:39 p.m.
San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis (85) jumps over St. Louis Rams free safety Rodney McLeod during the first quarter of an NFL football game on Dec. 1, 2013, in San Francisco. Professional athletes frequently get traded to other teams, but Davis is about to be the first to be traded like a stock.
Fantex CEO Buck French does some work during promotional stop on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in San Francisco. Professional athletes frequently get traded to other teams, but San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis is about to be the first to be traded as part of an IPO.

The stock of San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis has risen considerably on and off the field since he was pulled from a 2008 game and his attitude criticized.

Now Davis could become the first known professional athlete to actually be a stock. Fantex Inc., a West Coast brand-building company, is planning an initial public offering of Vernon Davis stock available for $10 a share on its website ( Under Fantex's plan, Davis and other sports stars would be treated like public companies that are traded on stock exchanges. Trading would take place on the Fantex platform and is awaiting approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Fantex IPO is part of “a land rush to see who can come up with the next clever concept to bring fans closer to the game,” veteran sports agent Leigh Steinberg, who has represented hundreds of NFL players during his career, told The Associated Press. “It's a manifestation of the different ancillary revenue flows that players, speculators and investors can engage in, all of which is created by the love of sports.”

“While there have been some security offerings that had returns linked to royalty payments received by celebrities (David Bowie for one), it is very unusual and a new concept to offer a stock whose returns are linked to an athlete's future earning stream,” said Ted Schwartz, president of Capstone, an investment group in Colorado Springs, Colo.

In October, Fantex bought 10 percent of Davis' future earnings directly and indirectly related to football.

The company estimates that Davis, 30, an eight-year NFL veteran, will play six more seasons, have a successful post-playing career and ultimately earn about $61 million.

Because of risk factors, the “present value” of Davis' brand income was discounted to $40 million, and he will get $4 million up front. The company will assist Davis in raising his profile off the field.

Davis is scheduled to make more than $10 million in nonguaranteed salary and bonuses in the two remaining years of his contract. Fantex is counting on another lucrative deal to follow.

Fantex CEO Buck French said investors will receive dividends, though he did not elaborate. The future value of the stock will be directly tied to Davis' earnings, which are not a given. If the earnings are lower than expected, investors' expected returns also will decline.

French, who recently visited Pittsburgh and about a dozen other cities to meet potential investors, said Davis' many talents should help make him a marketable commodity after he retires. Davis is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and artist, and a natural for broadcasting, French said.

“He's a multi-dimensional individual,” French said. “He has a long-term view for his brand.”

Last season, Davis caught 52 passes for 850 yards and a career-best 13 touchdowns. But “he realizes he is more than just a Pro Bowl tight end,” French said. “He wants to be great on the field, and he wants to be great off the field.”

The risks, especially injuries, are obvious. The IPO for Houston running back Arian Foster, the first player Fantex signed, in October, was postponed after he got hurt. Foster played in just eight games last season and had back surgery in November. Davis himself suffered a concussion and missed part of a game. It was not his first.

“I can't reduce the risk on the field, and I can't make them a better football player,” French said. “But I can help them become a better brand. And ultimately that's our business' goal.”

“There are a ton of risks and question marks,” Schwartz said. “The No. 1 risk factor would be that this is, by definition, a ‘speculative investment.' What Mr. Davis' future earnings will be is a large unknown, with his next contract a couple of years away.”

He added, “You are actually buying stock that can be converted to Fantex common stock at their discretion. You have no direct investment in the Vernon Davis brand per the prospectus. This stock can only be bought and sold on their platform, so that adds another layer of uncertainty.”

Fantex recently landed another NFL player, Buffalo quarterback EJ Manuel, buying 10 percent of his brand value for $4.97 million. Another IPO is expected, although French said he could not comment.

Investment analyst Jake Mann is more bullish on Manuel than Davis because Manuel is only 24. His career is just starting.

“The younger the better,” Mann wrote on the Motley Fool website. “There's more upside because he has more time to improve his brand value, whether that's through a richer contract or more endorsements.”

Shawn Evans, 43, of Ross was among the few attending the “Vernon Davis IPO Tour” at Jerome Bettis Grille 36. He said he probably will buy shares.

“When you look at the combination of the potential and the risk, it makes for a really interesting proposition,” said Evans, an IT specialist for a Downtown law firm and holder of an MBA. “I absolutely like the idea.”

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter@BCohn_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.