Numlock News: June 8, 2023 • Electric, Omega, Las Vegas
By Walt Hickey
Saudi Arabia’s acquisition — sorry, investment — in the PGA Tour led many to believe that the nonprofit tour would, like LIV Golf, become a for-profit enterprise, but that idea was batted down by the PGA commissioner and indeed somehow this thing is going to remain a nonprofit. The PGA Tour ended 2021 with $4.5 billion in assets and $3.3 billion in liabilities, some 1,000 employees 13 of whom are paid over a million dollars a year. It gets $583 million from media rights, $152 million from managing tournaments, $175 million co-sponsoring tournaments and $176 million from sponsorships, as well as the nonprofit owning 40 for-profit C corporations. That’s a fascinating business structure for a nonprofit, and one that may invite regulatory scrutiny as PGA and LIV try to advance the deal forward. Indeed, a California congressman introduced a bill to strip the tour of its tax-exempt status within a day.
Swiss watchmaker Omega alleges three ex-employees plotted to sell a fake 1957 Omega Speedmaster with broad arrow hands at an auction. The watch in question was in fact compiled from parts from other watches Frankenstein-style. The Ship of Theseus of watches was then auctioned through Phillips in 2021, and sold for 3.1 million Swiss francs ($3.3 million), then the highest-ever price paid for a Speedmaster at auction. It would appear the goal was to rip off Omega itself: One of the people alleged to have been in on it was an employee of the Omega Museum, and successfully persuaded Omega that the watch was rare and exceptional and the company itself should buy it.
It’s a great time to be an electrician in America, a cohort of workers that is now 1.032 million strong, the highest ever. Even despite the rush, electricians are getting their best wages in decades, averaging $37.51 per hour as of April for an annual wage of around $78,000, a 7.8 percent year-over-year increase. A boom in the housing market plus the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022 — which steers $369 billion to beefing up energy infrastructure — is driving the golden age of electricians.
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A new survey asked Americans how they view the rash of brand-based films hitting into box offices, that recent genre of film in which swashbuckling business executives land deals and build corporations. Doubtless a symptom of a larger thread where executives have commandeered creative power from the creatives who traditionally pitched film concepts, there’s an abundance of them in cinemas and on streaming, including Nike hagiography Air, the eponymous Tetris and BlackBerry, Eva Longoria’s Flamin’ Hot movie about Cheetos, and Jerry Seinfeld’s Unfrosted: The Pop-Tart Story, which I gotta say does sound fake but is apparently real. When asked to choose between two framings, 45 percent of respondents said they were “extended ads with little or no artistic value,” while 55 percent said they were “just as much pieces of art as other films.”
Young people are drinking less, with one 2020 study finding that the percentage of college students who abstained from alcohol increased from 20 percent in 2002 to 28 percent in 2018. Young people in general are drinking less, and one impact that’s having is that the economics of the concert venue business is getting thrown out of whack. At a 325-capacity clubs in Tucson, owners reported that during events aimed at Gen Z concertgoers, money spent on alcohol dropped 25 percent compared to shows that skewed older. That’s hitting clubs’ margins and putting smaller clubs in financial straits, as the price of admission often flows through the club to the talent and crew while bar service was an element of the concert that flowed more directly to the venue itself.
Bath, Body, The Works
The men’s beauty business hit $11.3 billion last year at retail, up 22 percent compared to the level five years ago, even though men only account for 10 percent of beauty industry sales. Bath & Body Works is trying to woo men into stores with beard oils, face creams and more in an attempt to increase their $400 million in men’s sales in 2022. Bath & Body Works customers skew even more female than the overall industry sales, with the men’s business just 5 percent of total revenue, half the overall industry’s level. Overcoming whatever preconceived notions men have about Bath & Body Works is now a key element of the brand’s strategy, as they pursue a demographic that is far more likely to get their cosmetics from the internet or the direct-to-consumer brands that advertise on every single Dungeons & Dragons actual play and movie podcast I listen to.
Las Vegas, the gleaming monument to mankind’s hubris constructed in the desert, pledged in 2021 to to eliminate “non-functional turf,” with the Southern Nevada Water Authority targeting the elimination of 3,900 acres of grass within six years. It’s actually going rather badly, as the agency got ahead of itself and the realistic amount of grass they could conceivably remove might actually be as low as 1,100 acres. Southern Nevada gets 300,000 acre-feet of water from the Colorado River every year, but without cuts Clark County will need 400,000 acre-feet of water a year by 2035. After years of voluntary turf removal, there are 9,000 acres of grass left in Las Vegas Valley, 1,706 acres of which the agency in a January board meeting estimated it could remove. Before residents are pressured, there’s an obvious answer: There are another 3,000 acres of grass that were exempted because they’re golf courses.
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