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Major League Soccer to join other leagues in allowing private equity financing

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In a move praised by sports investors, Major League Soccer will allow private equity financing to increase league capital that is suffering from the economic fallout of Covid-19, MLS Commissioner Don Garber told CNBC.

Garber, who appeared on “Closing Bell” Friday, announced the move saying the league is “pretty close to finalizing something” that will allow private equity financing that “could come into investing with our local teams,” he said.

Allowing private equity financing could help unload some of the burden facing MLS owners suffering losses with no spectators planned to attend games this season. Garber admitted “not having day of game revenues have been really impactful for us,” adding the MLS could suffer a $1 billion loss due to Covid-19.

Jared Bartie, co-chair of O’Melveny’s sports industry group, said the drop in revenues is problematic because MLS clubs have debt from their venues that they need to service, among other costs.  

“There is a rental fee; there is debt service; there are sponsorship and partner fulfillment,” Bartie told CNBC. “[Game day] revenues are necessary to offset those costs. When there is declining revenue, those costs don’t go away. They are still there.”

Though most MLS clubs are struggling financially, owners also gain revenue through Soccer United Marketing, which oversees all the commercial rights to the MLS. SUM controls sponsorship, broadcasting, digital, and consumer product rights of the entities and handles the promotion of the Mexican Football Federation contests and CONCACAF’s Gold Cup games in the U.S.

“We’ll get through this,” said Garber. “But it has had challenges for sure.”

The private equity option will also allow MLS limited partners, like Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant and Houston Rockets star James Harden, to have more buyers if they decide to sell their stakes in the future.

Garber said MLS has been reluctant to allow private equity ownership in the past as the league wanted to “know who your owners are so that you understand how long they are for their vision for participating in the league.” 

With franchise values skyrocketing, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball created investment funds to lure minority buyers. New York firm Dyal Capital Partners will handle the NBA’s fund. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told CNBC last December he expects the MLB’s investment fund to “be up and running” this year.

“It creates new opportunities for people who want to invest in sports, and maybe not in a purely financial way,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told SportsPro Media. “Part of it is the amenities, and the cachet, and the desire to be directly involved with these leagues.”

The MLS resumed its season Wednesday with its “MLS is Back Tournament” after suspending operations due to the pandemic on March 12.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/11/mls-join-nba-mlb-in-private-equity-financing.html

CNBC

Google Assistant’s driving mode for Android is nearly ready, one year later

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Google Assistant driving mode on Android
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Google promised an Assistant driving mode for phones would arrive in mid-2019, but that clearly didn’t happen — over a year passed without any sign of it. It appears to be ready, though. XDA-Developers has discovered (via Android Police) that Google Assistant’s driving mode is at least partially enabled for Android users. The interface has changed considerably from the I/O 2019 demo you see above, but the concept remains the same with large buttons and text that let you chat, message and play music while keeping your driving distractions to a minimum.

The rollout appears to be server-side, and might be part of a test. It’s not attached to any particular versions of Google’s Maps or search apps, and also works on a variety of devices. Your access might depend on your account.

We’ve asked Google for comment.

It’s rare for Google to have Android feature delays this long, and it’s not certain what prompted the extended wait. However, the redesign suggests that Google wasn’t completely satisfied with the Assistant driving mode it showed at I/O. Whatever the reasoning, this gives you one more way to handle common tasks during your trips.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/google-assistant-driving-mode-215249421.html

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Cloud leak exposed sensitive data from over 200,000 voicemails

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Some data leaks contain more sensitive info than most. Security researcher Bob Diachenko and Comparitech discovered (via Threatpost) that Broadvoice, a cloud VoIP provider for businesses, left over 350 million records exposed online in an unprotected cluster, including 2 million voicemail records with 200,000 transcripts. Many of those transcripts included sensitive data, and not just common elements like names and phone numbers — medical conditions, mortgages and insurance policies were all left open.

The largest general data collection, 275 million records, typically included full names, phone numbers, and cities.

The company told Comparitech that the data had been stored on September 28th and was locked down October 2nd, a day after Diachenko notified Broadvoice. There hasn’t been evidence of “misuse” so far, the company said. Marketing VP Rebecca Rosen told Threatpost that it believed “less than 10,000” businesses were impacted, although that doesn’t say how many of those companies’ customers were at risk.

The practical damage appears to have been limited as a result. Even so, this illustrates the dangers of insecure data. The wrong decision can expose vast amounts of info, and it can only take a subset of that data to create serious problems.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/broadvoice-voicemail-data-leak-211913573.html

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Meet the dairy firm hoping to power its delivery trucks using cow manure

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Like many large businesses, dairy company Arla Foods has grand plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and the firm aims to be carbon net zero by 2050.

Around 85% of Arla’s total emissions come from the co-operative of 10,000 farms it has across Europe, a combination of the methane and nitrous oxide from the cows themselves, as well as from the fuel needed for milking and other operations.

It is hoping one of the ways it will get there is by harnessing one of its most readily-available resources: the manure produced by the half a million cows on its U.K. farms alone.

It is in the middle of a three-month trial looking at the viability of turning manure into fuel for its delivery trucks, working with two farms to collect the raw material that would usually be used by farmers as a fertilizer.

The manure, combined with other materials such as food waste, are put into an anaerobic digester that acts like a cow’s stomach, to produce gas, which is then cleaned and liquified into fuel that Arla then uses to power two of its milk trucks. Currently, Arla is running the trial with two of its farms in Buckinghamshire, a county northwest of London, said Graham Wilkinson, the company’s agriculture director.

“We collect it off two farms as part of the trial … but we’ve got 2,500 (U.K. farms) to go in the longer term, so there’s definitely the opportunity to scale up. We’ve got plenty of cow manure,” Wilkinson told CNBC by phone.

The U.K. pilot follows a 2019 trial in Sweden, where Arla’s farms have the potential to produce biofuel that is equivalent to 54 million liters of diesel [source]. That trial showed that running a truck on biofuel is cheaper than using diesel, but the vehicles themselves are more expensive, Wilkinson said. “The ambition would be to go down this (biofuel) route and for it to be more financially viable than diesel. We need to think differently from diesel anyway,” he added.

“For every liter of diesel that … we replace with biofuels, we actually reduce our carbon emissions by (about) two kg … So you’re actually having a sort of double positive (effect) on our emissions,” Wilkinson added.

The anaerobic production process also produces a substance called digestate, which farmers can use as a natural fertilizer for crops. Usually, they’d spread slurry and manure directly on to crops, but that is very watery, Wilkinson explained. “(There’s) a tougher consistency within the digestate, which actually (has) more nutrients. So, ultimately, what (the farmers) get back is of a higher value,” he said. Eventually, Wilkinson would like to get to a point where farmers wouldn’t have to use nitrous oxide-rich manufactured fertilizer that currently contributes to carbon emissions.

As well as benefiting the environment and farmers, another long-term aim is to save money, in an industry where the price paid for milk fluctuates. Farmers called for shoppers to boycott U.K. supermarkets over dairy prices in 2015, while Sardinian producers poured sheep’s milk into the streets during a 2019 protest.

“Throughout our whole supply chain we are relentlessly looking at how we do things, and how we can simplify it … the potential with this (biofuel trial) … is it could be another example of where we could actually take cost out and benefit our farmers at the same time,” Wilkinson stated.

Transforming manure into biofuel is not brand new: a renewable natural gas facility that uses manure from 33,000 dairy cows opened in Oregon in December, while Ugandan firm Green Heat International is turning agricultural waste into energy to help power homes in the country.

Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg Getty Images

Big energy

Creating energy from food waste is something that oil company Phillips 66 hopes to be able to do on a huge scale. It is planning to spend around $800 million to turn its San Francisco refinery in Rodeo, California into a renewable fuel plant, which it claims would be the world’s largest.

Phillips 66 announced the plan in August and if it gets approved by authorities, the “Rodeo Renewed” project would produce 680 million gallons of biofuels a year and is likely to begin production in 2024. The raw materials include used soybean and cooking oil and other fats (known as renewable “feedstocks”) and would be delivered to the plant via its existing marine and rail terminals, said Joe Gannon, senior advisor for external communications at Phillips 66, in an email to CNBC.

“Due to the facility being the largest in the world, the feedstocks will be sourced both domestically and internationally and are currently under evaluation to ensure reliable supply and minimization of impact to the environment,” Gannon stated.

Infrastructure is also something Arla is keen to have more of, and Wilkinson wants government backing in building anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities. “We’re relatively confident that from a financial perspective it is a viable option, but if we haven’t got the AD (anaerobic digester) facilities to be able to utilize, then that’s where we need support,” he told CNBC.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/10/16/arla-dairy-firm-hoping-to-power-delivery-trucks-with-cow-manure.html

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