Recently on the morning of February 19, 2019, rumors broke from the Athletic that the AAF received last minute funding of $250 million in order to make payroll. While it was expected for the AAF to be in a somewhat unstable financial environment in its first breaths as a professional football league, it is a little unnerving for the league to possibly be so short on cash only two weeks into its inaugural season. However, co-founder Charlie Ebersol wanted to reassure the fans and players of the AAF by saying, “It’s a giant challenge and opportunity, and as a startup you are constantly looking for some peace of mind. When we got out of the first week of games, we saw there was so much interest from investors, and if we had one person who could take care of us for a very long time, that would be great.”
It has been a question as of late as to how the AAF would be able to afford its some 400 players plus staff for these teams, especially with such a stitched-together tv deal. There were a good number of initial investors in the league including former Steelers Legends Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward, as well as The Chernin Group, who owns the recent media empire Barstool Sports. But without a massive funder, one who can write the really big checks that a new professional league needs, how was the AAF going to survive?
The possibility of not being able to make payroll would be the fastest way for the league to dissolve. These players are putting a lot on the line to receive their paychecks. Many have given up other opportunities in other fields to be here with these teams. But as soon as the money stops coming in, the players and coaches will too. And in walks Tom Dundon, the knight in shining armor with a checkbook for a sword that the AAF needed most in its darkest hour to date. But who is this man, and what prompted him to give such a vast amount of money that quickly prompted him to new Chairman of the AAF?
Dundon, originally from New York, made his financial roots in Dallas, TX. There he attended SMU and graduated with a degree in economics and from there, operated his own restaurant once graduating. Soon after he co-founded Drive Financial Services, a subprime automobile financing company that eventually turned into Santander Consumer, USA. After serving as CEO for Santander for a number of years, he left, to found yet another firm Dundon Capital Partners which is currently headquarter in a 33-floor tower in downtown Dallas. He also went on to own Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, regarded as one of the top tier golf courses in the state. Additionally, he went on to own a quarter of Top Golf, now one of the countries most notorious entertainment and family fun destinations.
Perhaps his most recent and well known financial transaction was in 2017 when he took over as majority owner of the Carolina Hurricanes NHL franchise. Before his purchase, The Hurricanes were known as one of the most abysmal teams in the NHL, and had often been rumored to be moving cities. They had been steadily declining in attendance yearly and have had only reached 40 wins once in the last 9 seasons. This past year, the Carolina Hurricanes have seen a 13% increase in attendance, the only increase in home game attendance in the last 5 years. They are also currently sitting at a 31-22 record with 23 games remaining in the regular season, as they are in the running for a wild card spot or potential metropolitan division spot to make the NHL playoffs for the first time in 9 years, the longest active streak in the league. Dundon is also known as an owner who is for the fans, as there has been increasing fan interaction with the hurricanes dramatically over his short tenure as owner.
Rumors are still swirling as to whether this was an emergency investment or something that was planned. But regardless, this is a huge step in the right direction. With a currently annual pay roll at roughly $33 million, the AAF just received enough funding to be sustainable for 3-5 years. Things are looking bright with our new captain at the helm.
Not here to be taken seriously, but I applaud those who do. Hater of marching bands and Lee County