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What If Japanese Players Were Compensated With Equity?

» 17 February 2014 » In npb, something else, sports business » 3 Comments

When Rakuten was mulling over what to do with Masahiro Tanaka last December, a thought occurred to me: what if Rakuten came up with a compensation package that included company stock? Obviously Rakuten was never going to approach what Tanaka ultimately got from the Yankees, but if they had offered him, say, a grant of one million shares in Rakuten (TYO: 4755), that would have been a little more creative than just offering to double his salary. Of course in the end they did neither.

Unlike Major League teams, which are mostly owned by groups of wealthy individuals, Japanese baseball clubs are mostly subsidiaries of large corporations. While a few clubs are significant sources of revenue, many are operated as marketing loss leaders for their parent corporations. Rakuten’s Golden Eagles club, for example, seems to fit in to the latter category.

In my industry (technology/software), it’s commonplace to compensate employees with company equity, usually in the form of incentive stock options or restricted stock units. Japanese companies seem to prefer cash bonuses as variable compensation, but that bit of reality wasn’t enough to dissuade me from this thought exercise:

What if Japanese teams partially compensated their players with company stock? Would the players be better or worse off?

To explore the question, I took a player drafted at some point over the last ten years from each team owned by a publicly-traded company, and estimated how much money they’d have today if they had taken 10% of their draft signing bonus in company stock. I deliberately chose first round picks that haven’t panned out for this exercise.

The results are below, but before we get to them, here are some points to remember:

  • This is a thought exercise. I’m not suggesting that anyone should do this.
  • The starting share value is the closing price on December 1 of the year the player was drafted.
  • Share values are as of market close on February 14, 2014.
  • Lotte, Seibu, Yomiuri, and Chunichi are privately held, so they aren’t included here.
  • The currency unit is Japanese yen. If you’re more comfortable with US dollars, JPY 100m is about $1m, and JPY 10m is about $100k.
  • I didn’t account for dividends, and fortunately none of these stocks split over the periods I looked at.
  • If you find mistakes in my calculations please let me know.
  • I cheated for DeNA. Kota Suda was drafted and played his rookie season under Yokohama’s previous Tokyo Broadcasting System ownership. But this is a thought exercise, and it wouldn’t be fun looking at TBS’s stock, or a very recent DeNA draftee. So we’re clear, I denoted Suda with **.
Team/Parent Corporation Player Year Drafted Signing Bonus 2014 Share Value (est) % Change Notes
Rakuten Shingo Matsuzki 2005 JPY 80m JPY 13.504m 68.8% It was a pain to get this data, since Rakuten switched from the JASDAQ to the Tokyo Stock Exchange
Softbank Shingo Tatsumi 2008 JPY 100m JPY 47.596m 475.96% Softbank is the clear financial winner here
Orix Daisuke Nobue 2006 JPY 70m JPY 3.6211m -48.32% Orix took a beating in the financial crisis of 2008 but followed the market up a bit in 2013
Nippon Ham (Nippon Meat Packers) Ken Miyamoto 2006 JPY 90m JPY 11.574m 28.6% Stagnant until Abenomics kicked in in 2013
Hanshin (Hankyu Hanshin Holdings) Ikketsu Sho 2008 JPY 100m JPY 10.905m 9.05% Hankyu/Hanshin an old, mature business
Hiroshima (Mazda) Michito Miyazaki 2006 JPY100m JPY 6.097m -39.13% Mazda is profitable, but share price was diluted by a large public offering in 2012
Yokohama DeNA** Kota Suda 2010 JPY 100m JPY 8.764m -12.36% DeNA seems to be performing well financially but in an inherently risky market (mobile games)
Yakult Mikinori Katoh 2007 JPY 100m JPY 17.721m 77.21% Yakult finished in last in the standings in 2013, but the parent company’s stock surged

To my surprise, most of the players would have come out ahead, with only Orix and Mazda really taking a beating. And even then, both were casualties of the 2008 global financial crisis and clawed back share value in 2013.

It’s not much of a surprise to see Softbank and Rakuten at the top of the growth table, as both are giants consolidating positions of global leadership in their industries (mainly telecommunications and e-commerce, respectively). It is a bit of a surprise to see Yakult up there, I haven’t looked into that one. I thought DeNA would have grown more, but they do seem to have a diversification problem and are in a notoriously fickle market (mobile games).

It would be irresponsible to write a post like this and not point out that much of the growth listed here happened in 2013, fueled by Abenomics monetary policy. While Abenomics seems to have coincided with stock market growth, there has also been some volatility, and it obviously remains to be seen if it leads to the end of Japan’s long problem with stagnation.

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Winter Meetings Preview

» 04 December 2009 » In international baseball, mlb, nichibei, sports business » Comments Off

The MLB offseason is heating up, and figures to kick into full gear when the Winter Meetings open on Monday. As usual, there will be a number of story lines involving Japanese teams and players this year.

  • Hideki Matsui is the top Japanese name this offseason. His situation will evolve as talks with the Yankees occur and other key veteran sluggers find 2010 employers. Reports last week stated that agent Arn Tellem could call Matsui in anytime during the week, and Matsui has delayed his return to Japan to accommodate. Expect a full contingent of Japanese media keep the rumor mill jam-packed until this guy signs.
  • We could wind up with a better sense on the market for Ryota Igarashi and Hisanori Takahashi. The market will be stronger for Igarashi, and the righty is already training in Arizona.
  • NPB foreign player rosters are filling up, but we frequently hear about a guy or two moving from MLB or affiliated ball over to Japan during the Winter Meetings.

Our own Ryo Shinkawa will be on the ground at this year’s Winter Meetings.

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Matsui in Demand

» 16 November 2009 » In international baseball, nichibei, sports business » 5 Comments

Before free agent Hideki Matsui begins receiving calls for his service on the field, he’ll have a different set of suitors to field offers from: companies seeking him for endorsements.

According to reports, since the MVP performance in the World Series he has had eight offers to appear in commercials (three from existing sponsors and five additional prospective sponsors). Matsui’s price tag for each commercial appearance is estimated in the same range as Ichiro Suzuki, and his MVP performance could bring in up $10 million in earnings this off-season.

Media demand has also rocketed for Matsui, as he has received an estimated 100 requests for television and event appearances in his home country. Even though his home for next season has yet to be determined, it’s not an understatement to say his new team (if the Yankees does not re-sign him) will have an opportunity to develop a big presence in the Land of the Rising Sun.

That opportunity sets Matsui apart from the rest of the free agent pool, in some regards. The Japanese-language signage we’ve been seeing in Yankee Stadium during Matsui’s tenure with the Yankees is sure to follow him wherever he goes. Every news program in Japan will show highlights from Matsui’s game, so a well-timed advertisement behind the plate will reach millions of Japanese homes on a nightly basis. With this comes a revenue opportunity that teams won’t get with, say, Jim Thome.

As I was in New York last week the lack of Matsui merchandise in stores was not only obvious, but also well publicized. You can count on the Japanese business community not missing out on this opportunity and making the most out of his MVP performance in number of ways.

Patrick Newman contributed a few thoughts to this post.

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Okajima Changes Agents

» 22 October 2009 » In international baseball, mlb, sports business » 3 Comments

Hideki Okajima, who will be a free agent in the upcoming offseason is looking to re-sign (didn’t forget the hyphen this time) with the Boston Red Sox. To that end, he has dismissed agent Peter Greenberg and will be represented by Boston-based Joe Rosen.

Regarding the change, Okajima was quoted as saying “The agent and I were not on the same page regarding contracts. There was no specific communication done and I struggled to understand.” With the Red Sox showing strong interest in re-signing Okajima, he did not want to take any risks and went with a more established Boston-area guy. Okajima stated another positive point about Rosen is that, “he will be able to help me in community involvement as well.”

There seems to be no question that both sides are looking to reconnect and the change in agents shows how Okajima is committed to staying with the Red Sox. With the contribution of Okajima in his three seasons with the Red Sox posting a 2.72 ERA in 198 games, it should be a quick negotiation.

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Japan’s Answer to the Arizona Fall League

» 15 October 2009 » In kbo, npb, sports business » 1 Comment

Japan’s answer to the Arizona Fall League is the Miyazaki Phoenix League, a 17-day long instructional league held in southern Japan. However unlike the AFL, the Phoenix League is not only a place for prospects to gain experience, but an opportunity for the stars to prepare for the playoffs. Hisanori Takahashi recently pitched four innings in a Phoenix brush-up start and Yu Darvish plans to join Nippon Ham’s Phoenix team to rehab from injury.

The Miyazaki Phoenix League consists 12 NPB teams, the Futures team (consisting a mix of NPB farm players), the Hanwha Eagles and Doosan Bears of Korea, and an All-Star team from the Shikoku-Kyushu Island League. The 16 teams will play a total of 112 games. Even though the fall league started out with all games being cancelled due to a typhoon, the fans have had many opportunities to interact with players and it’s been a special time for this sports-deprived region of the country.

Small cities in Arizona and Florida are the mecca of baseball during the spring and it makes sense for the NPB to construct their instructional leagues in different regions during the offseason. 17-days long tournament can bring a financial surplus for rural Miyazaki and even though some of the teams are concentrating on the playoffs, it is the best time of the season for the baseball fans in southern Japan.

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NPB’s Largest Indoor Facility Constructed

» 11 October 2009 » In npb, sports business » Comments Off

The Tokyo Yomiuri Giants opened up their new indoor practice facility, realized by the partnership project celebrating the 60th anniversary ofYomiuri Land and the 75th anniversary ofthe Yomiuri Giants. The facility is now the largest among the NPB teams surpassing the recently structured Hanshin Tigers’ practice space.

NPB teams tend to be operated by big businesses, and media giant Yomiuri owing the Giants gives them an edge over the other teams financially as you can see in the 2009 NPB Team Payroll Ranking. With that said, the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants gain another advantage over other teams with the new indoor facility.

On another note, the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants started a page on their website allowing the fans to see the behind-the-scenes in a NPB atmosphere which I found interesting.

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Draft to be Open to Public

» 07 September 2009 » In amateur baseball, npb, npb draft, sports business » Comments Off

Nippon Professional Baseball is taking another step to further engage its fans. NPB is opening an online drawing from which 1000 fans will be chosen to enjoy the atmosphere of the draft. The draft will take place on October 29th in Tokyo and the lucky 1000 fans will be the first to enjoy the prospects being named to their new professional teams.

The draft will attempt to add an entertainment side to the event making the drawing box clear so that the fans will be able to see the last moment of the manager picking the names out. On a business note, Toshiba has agreed in terms to be the special sponsor of the event, so it’s definitely something NPB can expand on.

A franchise’s future could depend on the winning the rights to Yusei Kikuchi (assuming he decides to enter the NPB Draft) and other prospects, so NPB made the decision to allow some fans to enjoy the special moment in history live. We ran down some of the other top draft prospects as well last week.

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Colonel Sanders is Back

» 05 September 2009 » In Koshien, npb, sports business » 4 Comments

The Colonel Sanders will finally make an appearance back at the Koshien Stadium in front of the Hanshin fans. We mentioned earlier in the year that the famous Colonel Sanders statue has reemerged from the riverbed of the Dotonbori.

Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan Ltd. announced that the statue will make an appearance to the public on September 9th near Gate 5 starting from 3pm until 6:30pm. Fans will be able to see the statue without a game ticket.

The Hanshin Tigers are 20 games back from first place Yomiuri Giants and are 3.5 back from the last playoff spot. If they are able to slide in to take the last spot from the Yakult Swallows and eventually reach the Japan Series, Colonel Sanders should get some serious consideration for MVP votes.

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Inside the Industrial Leagues

» 02 September 2009 » In amateur baseball, sports business » 3 Comments

With current Boston Red Sox prospect Junichi Tazawa making the jump from the Japanese Industrial Leagues to the Major Leagues, the attention toward Industrial Leagues is increasing as we speak. Also the 2009 Baseball World Cup is set to begin from September 9th and you may have noticed the Japan national team roster is composed of only Industrial League players.

The Industrial League, operated by the JABA (Japanese Amatuer Baseball Association), is explained as a minor league unaffiliated with the Nippon Professional Baseball in the NY Times article, Japanese Are Irked by U.S. Interest in Pitcher. Teams are fielded by company’s operating in Japan, and the Industrial Leagues are treated as amateur baseball with players not receiving salary as a baseball player, but as an employee with the company.

There are two types of team registered for the Industrial League: Corporate teams and Club teams. Every teams registered is listed on Wikipedia. Teams across the nation participate in tournaments and leagues year around. The one currently in the final stage is the 80th annual Intercity Baseball Tournament (Toshi Taikou Yakyu Taikai) and the finals will be played September 1st from 6pm at the Tokyo Dome (Japan time) between Toyota and Honda. Also the first round of the 36th Industrial League National Tournament  (Shakai-jin Yakyu Nihon Senshuken) has started its regionals. Other notable tournaments include the 34th All-Japan Club Tournament (Zen-nihon Club Yakyu Senshuken). The history among these tournaments are established and there are plenty of games for teams and players to participate in.

Many current stars in the NPB and some MLB players have taken the Industrial League route to professional baseball. Current Chicago Cub Kosuke Fukudome played as a member of the Nihon Semei (Osaka) and won the Rookie of the year title in the 67th Toshi Taikou Yakyuu Taikai tournament. Japanese MLB pioneer, Hideo Nomo, is a former industrial leagues player as well. NPB stars such as Michihiro Ogasawara (Yomiuri Giants), Yasuyuki Kataoka (Seibu Lions), and Hitoki Iwase (Chunichi Dragons) are couple other players with Industrial League experience.

Even though the Industrial Leagues play a role in developing future NPB and possible MLB players, the existence of many teams have become an issue due to current business environment in Japan. If the parent company is struggling to make a profit, the existence of a baseball team for the company would always be a candidate for a budget cut. Industrial League powerhouse teams like Nissan had no choice, but to fold due after this season due to the parent company having financial problems.

In order for Industrial Leagues to survive and to reduce the financial responsibilities for some companies, talks are on-going to merge some of the tournaments and to reform the structure of the league. Sanspo recently published a lengthy article on the topic in Japanese. The recent change in Japanese political leadership could have an effect on the Industrial Leagues and its participating companies and this will be an issue we should all keep an eye on.

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Pro vs. College All-Stars

» 01 September 2009 » In amateur baseball, npb, sports business » Comments Off

Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Central and Pacific Leagues, the NPB young stars will take the field against a university all-star team on November 22nd at the Tokyo Dome. The NPB team will mainly consist players under the age of 26 and the candidates for the team include Masahiro Tanaka (Rakuten Golden Eagles) and Hayato Sakamoto (Yomiuri Tokyo Giants). The university team should include Yuuki Saito and players (Junior or below) who will be eligible for the World University Championship taking place in Japan next year.

Each team will select 24 players and current Tokyo Yakult Swallows manager Shigeru Takada will manage the pros and current Kinki University manager Tamotsu Enomoto will lead the university team.

On August 30th, Japan Student Baseball Association approved a revision the Japan Student Baseball Charter and the change will allow the professionals to build relationship with a student-athletes with practices and games. There have been numerous revisions to the charter, but not in an extreme way which allowed the pros to exchange time together on the field with high school and college amateur players. However with the recent movements of amateur players opting to go straight to the United States, the last thing NPB wants to see are college prospects leaving the country without playing in the NPB. In order to avoid that, building a stronger relationship with the Japan Student Baseball Association was a must.

This will be an interesting attempt for both sides and a big crowd is expected as a possible Masahiro Tanaka vs. Yuuki Saito showdown might be seen again, bringing back memories for the fans of the memorable 2006 summer Koshien Tournament. The same generation choosing different paths after graduating from high school taking to the same field should bring numerous stories to the Tokyo Dome on November 22nd.

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