Red Sox expand their reach in sporting world through Fenway Sports Group

Monday, August 20, 2007

BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox executive Mike Dee receives almost a dozen calls during an hourlong lunch at a Fenway Park restaurant, and this is the one that really gets his attention:~ Team owners are branching into other business ventures.

One of the ballclub's owners went fishing the previous day, with great success.

Dee puts down his lunch -- he's eats here so often, the double-decker burger is named after him -- and savors the details: Where did they go? How many fish did they catch? When are they going back?

But Dee won't be making a fishing trip any time soon.

Instead, he's off to North Carolina for a NASCAR drivers' meeting; or to New York to discuss online media at the commissioner's office; or down the street to Boston College to help the school capitalize on its move to the high-profile Atlantic Coast Conference.

Like striped bass in Boston Harbor, opportunities abound for Fenway Sports Group, a Red Sox sister company that is expanding the team's marketing reach into college sports, auto racing, golf, concerts and even beach volleyball. The Red Sox famously dubbed the New York Yankees an "Evil Empire"; in truth, it's on the Boston ballclub that the sun never sets.

"Baseball's always going to be our core business, but it's a mature business. It's going to be harder to squeeze more juice from the orange," said Dee, who has a dual role as the Red Sox chief operating officer and the president of Fenway Sports Group. "I tell people, 'I spend 80 percent of my time with the Red Sox, and the other 80 percent of my time with the Fenway Sports Group.'"

A former national marketing director for a paint company, Dee spent eight years with the San Diego Padres before following Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and president Larry Lucchino to Boston when Florida financier John Henry bought the team in 2002.

The Red Sox have done better than OK since then, winning the World Series in '04 to end an 86-year title drought, while selling out every game since May 15, 2003; ballpark ads and sponsorships are also quickly snapped up.

According to Forbes magazine, the value of the Red Sox alone -- not counting Fenway Park or their TV network -- has doubled, from $339 million in 2001 to $724 million in this year's accounting. If the Red Sox were strictly in the baseball business, this would be the time for the marketing folks to relax.

But major league baseball has a luxury tax that essentially forces big money teams to send 40 cents of every new dollar to the have-nots. So when Henry looked at ways to grow his business, he had to look outside the sport.

"With revenue sharing, we were looking at trying to draw revenue from other areas that are untaxed. We really had to leave the sport of baseball to do that," Henry said after unveiling a baseball-themed NASCAR entry at Fenway Park.

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