Texas Business Report: The Rockets Get Into the ‘Moneyball’ Game

The basketball team's general manager plans to hire two statistical analysts to help build a winning team around Jeremy Lin. 
Sat November 10, 2012 2:39 am
Associated Press | John Raoux

The Texas economy is one of the most robust in the world. Wildly profitable companies and ingenious entrepreneurs call this state home, and what happens here influences businesses around the nation. Here’s a slice of the profits, losses, big deals, and backroom decisions happening across Tex as this week.

Linvestment Opportunity
The Houston Rockets are taking a Moneyball approach to pursing their next national title, reaching out to Wall Street number crunchers for guidance in building a winning team around point guard Jeremy Lin. Businessweek reported this week that General Manager Daryl Morey plans to hire at least two new statistical analysts—and recruiters are especially interested in applicants who have backgrounds in finance and economics. 

Tracking complex player statistics is becoming increasingly popular in professional sports, and Morey is one of the biggest champions of the practice. The GM co-chairs an annual sports analytics conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that is attended by representatives from 73 teams in the NBA, MLB, NFL, and NHL.

The Bottom Line: It’s no surprise that Rockets’ front office has a preference for hiring business types: Morey has a Master of Business Administration from MIT, and the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations holds an MBA from Stanford. However, it may take some effort to entice the Wall Street set away from their top-dollar salaries: The team is offering $25,000 to $70,000 for the jobs, depending on experience, according to Businessweek.

Exxit Strategy
Exxon Mobil is taking steps to bail out of its investment in a large oilfield in southern Iraq. The Irving-based oil giant is soliciting offers from other companies to sell its sixty-percent stake of the multibillion-dollar West Qurna-1 oilfield by the end of the year, the Wall Street Journal reports. The Iraqi government must approve the prospective buyer before the deal can go through.

Exxon Mobil’s departure from the project follows a successful two-year increase in production. According to the WSJ, the company and partner Royal Dutch Shell “raised output to nearly 400,000 barrels a day from 244,000 barrels a day when the pair signed up for the project in early 2010.” The Iraqi government hopes to eventually reach an output of 2.8 million barrels a day at the site.

The Bottom Line: Exxon Mobil sparked political tensions with Iraq’s leaders last year when it made a separate agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government, a semiautonomous region in Iraq that “is locked in a feud with the Arab-dominated central government over land and oil rights.”

Shaq Value
Irving-based Zale Corporation is enlisting the Shaq Attack to add some heft to its holiday sales push. The jeweler announced this week that it has partnered with former NBA star and erstwhile film actor Shaquille O'Neal on a new men’s jewelry line, the Dallas Business Journal reports. The company plugged the endorsement deal in a video posted Monday , in which Shaq hawks rings and bracelets to unsuspecting customers at a Zales store in Plano.

The Bottom Line: Meanwhile, Zale shares continued to rise this week, marking an 85 percent increase since the beginning of the year. But an analyst quoted by Businessweek neglected to credit Shaq in justifying the company’s “Buy” rating. Instead, he said investors should be optimistic because Zale is cutting costs, “increasing prices, stocking more products customers want and giving its store employees more training.”

Winner of the Week: McKool Smith (And not just for having a rad company name)
Dallas law firm McKool Smith is successfully mounting a major legal charge against Apple, winning $368 million in damages from a federal court in Tyler on Tuesday on behalf of a California-based client. VirnetX accused the computer maker of infringing patents related to the FaceTime feature on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch product lines, CNET reports. On the same day that verdict came down, McKool Smith filed a second suit for infringements of the same patents on more recent generations of those products, including the iPhone 5.

According to CNET, VirnetX “aggressively patented” several networking technologies years ago and has become “well known for going after major tech companies for patent infringement.” In recent years it has racked up about $200 million in settlements from Microsoft, and it is currently embroiled in lawsuits against Cisco and other major tech companies.

Loser of the Week: Fossil
Fossil Inc. had bad news for investors this week, lowering its quarterly revenue target in response to lagging sales in Europe and Asia. The Richardson-based fashion accessories company floundered because its “strategy to nudge up prices for jewelry failed to resonate with distributors,” according to Reuters. Fossil shares fell thirteen percent on the news. Revenue still increased by 6.4 percent to $684.2 million, but that figure is nearly $29 million short of analysts’ projections.

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