We are starting to get some more details on one of the biggest mysteries surrounding Bill Simmons and his new ventures since leaving ESPN: The money.
Bill Simmons may have gone through an ugly divorce at ESPN, but it may have also been a blessing in disguise. His fledgling media empire is already firmly on the ground, including a new website, The Ringer, the popular Bill Simmons Podcast Network — perhaps not ironically dubbed BSPN — and a new show that will launch on HBO in June, titled, “Any Given Wednesday.”
But a big question still remained: Who was paying for all of this? After all, there is a new TV show to launch, a website to build, and there was a podcast network to produce. In all, there are about 100 employees, with about half (The Ringer has 43 staff members and five interns alone) working for the website and/or the podcast network.
Clearly some of the checks are coming from HBO, especially for the TV show, but there had been some speculation they had a hand in the other ventures also.
Lacey Rose of The Hollywood Reporter was able to confirm this in an in-depth story on Simmons, but notes that HBO is only a “minority investor” in the Bill Simmons Media Group.
It turns out Simmons is paying for the rest. Simmons’ agent, James “Baby Doll” Dixon,” told Rose that in addition to numerous offers to hire Simmons and produce his projects, he also received offers from some who simply wanted to invest in the media giant known as Bill Simmons.
Calls came from every corner of the media universe — Fox, Turner, Hulu, Netflix — as they did from Silicon Valley. “Guys from Google, Yahoo, Twitter, Snapchat,” says Dixon, “these first-rate technology giants were all trying to figure out how to get into the Bill Simmons business.” Some wanted to produce his next project; others simply wanted to invest in him.
Simmons rejected them all.
Instead, Simmons is using what Rose describes as “seven-figure revenue” that is coming in from “sponsorship and branding deals” to pay for most of the non-TV aspects of his venture.
To hear Simmons explain why, it sounds as if he rejected the investors because he is still scarred from his time at ESPN, where they often had to rein in their star and control his content.
“I had all of these people who wanted to [invest,] famous f — ing people,” Simmons told The Hollywood Reporter. “But one of my goals was to have as few people in my life as possible who would be like, ‘Why are you doing that? What’s going on here?’ “
Simmons does say that he is not against having investors in the future. But for now, this is Simmons’ baby and he is not about to let others tell him what can and cannot be done with it — not ESPN, not the NFL, and apparently not anybody from Silicon Valley.
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