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David Beckham and Authentic Brands Group Talk Up Partnership

Jamie Salter and the soccer star, speaking at the Milken Institute Global Conference, see a bright future for the David Beckham brand, especially with the FIFA World Cup on the horizon.

David Beckham and Authentic Brands Group Talk Up Partnership

An image from the spring campaign for Eyewear by David Beckham.

Authentic Brands Group has about 75 names in its stable of well-known labels that range from Juicy Couture and Brooks Brothers to Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.

But the David Beckham brand deal, representing one of today’s most famous soccer stars, probably took the longest to negotiate.

“About 10 years ago, David sat down with us and said he would sell certain parts of his brand, but he wasn’t willing to divest the whole brand,” recalled Jamie Salter, the founder, chairman and chief executive of New York-based Authentic Brands Group launched in 2010. “We said we would like to do a deal where we were 50/50 partners, sort of like a marriage. We don’t want to be just about endorsements or just about merchandise. We want to be about everything. When we do these deals, we want them to last forever.”

Eight years later in 2022, Authentic Brands Group was paying $269 million for a 55 percent stake in DB Ventures, which manages Beckham’s global brand and businesses spanning sports, entertainment, lifestyle and luxury. As part of the deal, ABG became the largest shareholder in Beckham’s Studio 99, which produced the “Beckham” docuseries released on Netflix last year.

“You know, when Jamie and I first met, I knew we eventually would be in business together,” said Beckham, married to Victoria Beckham, who has her own self-named clothing and beauty labels. “It just took a little bit longer than we both thought.”

Beckham and Salter were speaking at a talk moderated on Monday by former junk bond trader Michael Milken at the 27th Milken Institute Global Conference, an annual confab of global elites, high-stakes investors and politicians held at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills.

David Beckham and Authentic Brands Group Talk Up Partnership

Jamie Salter

Beckham recounted how it was 10 years before his retirement as a soccer player for Manchester United, Real Madrid and the LA Galaxy that he decided to transition from athlete to entrepreneur. “Throughout my career, I was the face of quite a few brands, but I wanted more with my own business,” the athlete said.

Yet he knew he would eventually need to bring in someone to grow the brand beyond a certain level. That’s where Salter came in.

The New York businessman said he wanted to partner with Beckham for many reasons, one of which was the athlete’s hard-work ethic and dedication to family and fans. “His family values were incredibly important to me and his devotion to fans,” Salter said. He recounted how Beckham never neglected his followers and would stand to take pictures and sign autographs until the last person left the building. Salter also knew he could invest in DB Ventures and be confident Beckham would be ready to work the day after the check was signed.

An important part of the DB Ventures acquisition was Studio 99, which currently is working on about 10 to 11 documentaries, including one about the conflict between the Adidas and Puma brands, helmed by two competing brothers — Adolf and Rudolf Dassler, Beckham said. The studio also generates content and creative marketing campaigns for several global brand clients.

Authentic Brands, whose annual revenues are close to $30 billion a year, sees big growth in the Studio 99  business because content, lifestyle and entertainment are increasingly coming together. “We’re going to continue to invest in the entertainment side of our business,” Salter said. “Today, entertainment makes up 25 percent of our total revenue.”

The panel discussion didn’t reveal too much about upcoming David Beckham brand projects beyond entertainment. But recently, Authentic Brands Group renegotiated a contract between Italian eyewear manufacturer Safilo Group and the David Beckham brand. Safilo said it signed a perpetual license agreement for Eyewear by David Beckham, replacing the previous contract expected to expire at the end of 2030.

With the upcoming FIFA World Cup to be played in three countries in 2026, Salter mentioned there could be certain products linked to the soccer games normally viewed by millions of fans around the world, but didn’t outline specifics.

In other developments, Simon Property Group, a major shopping mall owner, recently sold off its nearly 10 percent stake in Authentic Brands Group for gross proceeds of nearly $1.2 billion in the first quarter. Those shares were picked up by Leonard Green & Partners, General Atlantic, HPS Partners, Jasper Ridge Partners and Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings.

And in furthering its brand portfolio, Authentic Brands recently entered an agreement to acquire the Champion label from HanesBrands for about $1 billion, which should add another $1 billion in the company’s annual revenues.