How Hip-Hop Superstar Travis Scott Has Become Corporate America’s Brand Whisperer

Three years ago, Scott made the 30 Under 30 based on his music credentials. Now he’s helping major companies rethink their brands—and changing how celebrities and corporations interact.

The afternoon after Election Day, Travis Scott pilots his Lamborghini SUV, a rolling hotbox, down Melrose Avenue, the thudding beats of his friend, fellow rapper Don Toliver, keeping him awake and aware.

Like the rest of America, he’s been following the vote totals (“Looks like Biden, right?”), and political discord seems everywhere, his Los Angeles streetscape largely boarded up. Hip-hop’s lyrical currency is metaphor, and Scott can’t help but notice the sight. “They’ve got to have understanding,” he says of those anticipating civil unrest that never came. “It’s bigger than these stores.”

Arriving at a recording studio, Scott seeks to clear his mind before getting to work. He grabs a basketball to avail himself of the hoop in the parking lot, sparks yet another blunt (a regular activity for him) and eventually pulls out a glass beer bottle filled with a clear liquid.

“Tell me what you think,” he says, handing it over. According to the plain white label affixed to the bottle, it’s a preliminary batch of Cacti, a forthcoming—and until now, top-secret—hard seltzer he’s been working on with AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer. This one’s purportedly strawberry; it tastes generally crisp and fruity. “We’ve got other flavors,” Scott says. “Like lime. I was actually just trying it. I kinda like it.”

Hey, what’s not to like when you’re Travis Scott? At 28, he’s arguably the most vital rapper in the world. Since making the Forbes 30 Under 30 three years ago, he has made us look smart, earning more than $100 million through chart-topping singles (“Sicko Mode”), a multiplatinum album (Astroworld) and the top-grossing rap tour in 2019. The latter is key: Scott is a famously raucous MC. Once he takes the stage, fans are “ragers” (his term), and he is “La Flame” (ditto), the spark that sets it all off.

What’s far more interesting, though, is how La Flame lights up the business world. For decades, celebrities have translated their renown into remunerative gigs as corporate shills. Then, for much of this century, fame instead yielded entrepreneurial opportunities far more lucrative than typical endorsements. Scott, to successful effect, has pursued a hybrid model in which he’s working with and within big brands, but in ways where he’s telling them what to do or say, rather than the reverse. “Those guys are allowing us to really dive in and create our own world,” he says.

Scott’s endorsement roster is formidable, ranging from brands that revel in their appeal to youth (PlayStation, Epic Games) to staid old brands that need to recapture it (General Mills, McDonald’s). Either way, he’s not interested solely in spiffed-up TV ads. For Epic, he conceived a new type of performance art, playing a live concert within Fortnite that drew 12 million viewers. For McDonald’s, he developed a Scott-branded menu item, one so popular the restaurant giant suffered a rare calamity: supply shortages. Not that the company minded much. “Travis is a cultural icon,” says Jennifer Healan, vice president of U.S. marketing for McDonald’s.

“The larger story here is that brands historically have told celebrities how to say their message. I think it’s very clear that Travis Scott and his team have gotten through to these brands that they have a very clear aesthetic, messaging and strategy,” says Blake Robbins, a partner at Ludlow Ventures, a Detroit venture capital firm that focuses on the overlap of consumer goods, media and gaming. “If he can make McDonald’s cool—the thing of pop culture right now—that’s the ultimate sign he’s made it.”

Before he was Travis Scott, the guy who could turn flash-frozen beef patties into zeitgeist fodder, he was Jacques Webster II, who usually went by Jack or Junior. He grew up near one of America’s most dynamic cities—in Missouri City, Texas, just outside Houston—but spent most of his childhood trying to escape to the bright lights of Los Angeles. To accomplish this, he decided, he needed “to use [my] imagination to the max. Like, the max.” His father, an amateur musician, taught him to play drums. (His uncle Travis, a musician, served as the source of his eventual stage name.) Scott first put those lessons to work in high school, performing in a string of rap groups with friends. While his dad tried to pursue music full-time, his mother kept things together with a job at an AT&T store. Scott’s smarts got him to the University of Texas at San Antonio, but his ambition, to his mom’s chagrin, drove him to drop out. L.A. would become home at last.

On StockX, a site for reselling luxury clothes, Scott’s kicks now sell for up to $22,500. “For the next generation of consumer, he has tremendous influence,” says StockX CEO Scott Cutler.

Scott’s big break came via a cold email to music manager Anthony Kilhoffer. “I can usually tell an artist just from the way they write,” Kilhoffer says. “[Scott’s] intelligence level is super-high.” After listening to a few of his sample tracks, Kilhoffer arranged a production gig for Scott at Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music. Scott learned by working on West’s Yeezus and Jay-Z’s Magna Carta . . . Holy Grail, focusing all the while on one thing: his own solo career.

In 2015, he released his first record, Rodeo, which peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s top-albums chart and eventually went platinum. At the time, Scott didn’t have the clout to release Rodeo as he had envisioned: in the toy aisle, on a USB drive, packaged with a Travis Scott action figure. “I had to settle for a jewel case,” he says, still apparently sulking. A year later, he pumped out another LP, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight. It too rose to the top of the Billboard chart and went platinum.

As he toured to promote these albums, his performances garnered a reputation for their manic mosh pits, a febrile atmosphere Scott stoked from the stage. One night at a show in Arkansas, this won him the attention of the cops, who arrested him and charged him with inciting a riot (he later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct). More consequently, his antics brought him into the Kardashian omniverse, which mints fame and money nearly in lockstep. According to Rolling Stone, Scott’s performance at Coachella in 2017 commanded the attention and affection of Kylie Jenner, who at the time was leveraging her derivative fame into a marketing-driven cosmetics empire. She and Scott already had plenty of connections—among them the fact that Jenner’s sister, Kim Kardashian, had married Scott’s mentor, Kayne West, three years earlier. Within days of their first meeting, Jenner reportedly joined Scott on the road. The following February, their daughter, Stormi, was born. And Scott’s star wattage increased exponentially with his move under the Kylie-Kim-Kanye big top.

Scott won’t talk about Jenner or her extended clan. (He hasn’t always been shy about the subject. In “Sicko Mode,” he rhapsodizes about Jenner’s success—and a profile we wrote about her: “Baby mama cover Forbes, got these other bitches shook.”) The couple’s status is a mystery, though Jenner has posted pictures of herself, Scott and Stormi on Instagram over the past few months. No matter: The Kardashian fame machine had bestowed on him enough juice to permit him to enact his creative vision. In 2018, that meant bundling concert tickets, merchandise and a new album. Astroworld hit No. 1 upon its debut, with Scott’s marketing strategy turning heads. Its success gave him the confidence, with regard to corporate partnerships, to attempt an even more radical extension of his brand.

Scott’s first major move was a traditional go-to for both rap superstars and Kardashian family paramours: shoes. Kanye West was well on his way to a billion-dollar score, not from music but his Yeezy sneaker collaboration with Adidas. Scott, in turn, began working with Nike and its Air Jordan line on Cactus Jack, a sub-brand he created. Like West, Scott does much of the design work himself. Not so much as an eyelet gets altered without his approval.

Scott’s shoes have quickly become grails—quest-worthy must-haves for sneakerheads. On StockX, a site for reselling luxury clothes, Scott’s kicks now outperform even Yeezys, albeit at a far smaller volume. A pair of Travis Scott Nikes there regularly move for 400% of retail compared to the 60% markup Yeezys typically fetch. (Both cost around $200 a pair at retail.) One recent afternoon, StockX had a listing for a bright-blue pair of Travis Scott x Air Jordan 4 Retros for $10,000. A purple pair carried a $22,500 price tag. “For the next generation of consumer, he has tremendous influence,” says StockX CEO Scott Cutler. “He’s advanced into the stratosphere within a few short years.”

Scott probably earns about $10 million a year or so from his Nike deal, but that figure belies its true worth. His shoes’ popularity has granted him tastemaker status. That, in turn, has led to more deals—and, most significantly, the standing to change the rules of celebrity sponsorships.

Take his partnership with Epic’s Fortnite. Haven’t ever led an assault on the Agency or razed storefronts on Retail Row? Then think of Fortnite as akin to the world of The Matrix. In the immersive online experience, Fortnite players customize their appearance and do battle across an island as competitors zap in and out of the game. Buoyed by his success as a live act, Scott pushed for a partnership in which he’d perform inside Epic’s virtual world.

He and Epic spent months going back and forth, the company sending emissaries to consult Scott at his Hollywood studio. (He did not visit Epic’s headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina.) By the end, they’d worked out a four-song, nine-minute set and chose an attention-grabbing moment to stage it: in April, just as the coronavirus was making clear that any sort of live event was out of the question for the foreseeable future.

In the performance, a digitally rendered Scott avatar stands 1,000 times taller than the players in the game, his bare-chested body shaped to Scott’s exacting specifications, down to the Cactus Jack x Nikes on its parking garage–sized feet. At the beginning, the colossus falls from the sky, bringing play to a halt—much as an immense extraterrestrial visitor dropping to Earth might briefly pause normal activity here. The performance ends with the debut of “The Scotts,” a new single recorded with Kid Cudi. “It was an opportunity to go to the max, to create a world that permits won’t let you do, fire marshals won’t let you do, building codes won’t let you do,” Scott says. “To have unlimited fun.”

Scott met McDonald’s supersized requirements for pursuing a celebrity partnership: He had an enormous cultural following and an authentic love for the fastfood restaurant’s grub.

The implications of his Fortnite concert quickly became evident. For Epic, it proved that the company was well on track to becoming more than just a maker of video games. For Scott and, really, the entire music industry, it laid a path to a new revenue stream. Scott likely earned close to $3 million for it, more than triple what his concerts typically gross. It showed that a virtual performance, once dismissed as a gimmick, could be as much an act of artistry as an old-fashioned live show. And it drove home the benefit of a closer relationship between brand and celebrity. “The landscape is changing,” says Epic’s Phil Rampulla, its head of brand. “You’ve got to bring something that’s awesome. Otherwise it’s, ‘That’s just an ad.’ And those things are just getting glossed over.”

With sales declining amid the pandemic, McDonald’s came to a similar conclusion this spring, realizing it needed something special to spark interest. When company execs spotted an Instagram post by Scott about a trip to the Golden Arches, they decided to link up with him, kicking off a series of Zoom meetings this summer. Most importantly, he met the company’s supersized requirements for pursuing a celebrity partnership: He had an enormous cultural following and an authentic love for McDonald’s grub.

The fast-food giant had been considering something along the lines of a branded celebrity meal and asked Scott to work out the details. He suggested a menu item based on what he’d been ordering at McDonald’s since his Texas childhood: a medium Sprite, a Quarter Pounder and fries with barbecue sauce. Scott next worked on the TV commercial, hand-drawing animation for it and writing a portion of its script, including the now-popular line “Tell them Cactus Jack sent you.” He also negotiated the full rights to and developed an array of merchandise including a blanket, boxer shorts, T-shirts and hoodies. There was a McNugget-shaped body pillow, too. Scott and his Cactus Jack team even designed apparel for the McDonald’s crew. Scott says McDonald’s took a little convincing to enact his vision. “After a while, they allowed us to do it,” he says. “Ended up working out.”

Yes, it did. And it was compelling proof that Scott is peddling something that sells. McDonald’s debuted the meal in September, and its U.S. same-store sales, a key indicator of a restaurant company’s health, swung from a 8.7% drop in the second quarter, at the height of virus lockdowns, to a 4.6% gain in the third, due at least in part to the Scott Meal. Forbes estimates Scott earned at least $5 million from the traditional endorsement part of the deal and another $15 million from merchandise sales, collecting on the deal for the merch rights that he worked out for himself. “We’re super-thrilled with the demand this partnership created,” says McDonald’s Healan.

A month after McDonald’s put him on the menu, Scott unveiled a new partnership, this one with PlayStation, another deal from which he earned at least $1 million. As with all things, Scott likes to maintain an air of mystery—the better to fuel discussion about whatever he’s selling—so details about his work with the game-console manufacturer remain scant. A PlayStation press release said only that Scott had joined the company as “a strategic creative partner” to “produce innovative projects that we hope will delight.”

Back in Hollywood on the basketball court, a half-stoned Scott is no more forthcoming. “It’s all going to roll out in the next couple of weeks,” he promises. A source later says that it’s a multiyear deal that could involve a co-branded console and perhaps even a game designed by Scott. Expected earnings: $20 million or more.

As Scott’s jump shot swishes through the net, he pauses and calls to one of several large guys—it’s never clear precisely how many—who follow him around. They are there, seemingly, both to provide security and ensure that he actually arrives wherever he needs to go. In fact, they have an additional purpose: “Can I get some Backwoods?” he asks. They’re also on hand to keep Scott well-stocked with blunt-making supplies. One of the big guys withdraws from his pocket a pack of thin cigars—Backwoods brand. Scott plucks one out, expertly re-rolls it with a healthy dose of marijuana inside and lights it, inhaling deeply as if he needs to wax extra-philosophical for a moment. 

“I don’t think utopia is about high currency with everything being like, a money thing,” he says. “I think it’s about people being naturally happy. The society we’re living in right now, it’s super-depressing in a sense of everything that’s happening in the world.” 

Forgive him: He’s been thinking a lot lately about utopia, he says, and why America doesn’t resemble anything like the image in his head. Why is it on his mind? Well, his next album is tentatively titled Utopia, and he seems determined to wrestle with the topic. The record is due out next year, though the release date is an open question given Scott’s bundling strategy and uncertainty over when large-scale live concerts might recommence. Lately, he says, he finds himself thinking about stories like that of Sandra Bland, the Black woman from near Houston who in 2015 ended up in jail over a traffic stop and was found hanging in a cell two days later. Utopia must be “about less self-hate,” Scott declares from within a cloud of smoke. And something else: “It’s about opportunity.”

For Scott, the next step toward opportunity means more ownership. All told, a source in the Scott camp claims Scott is on track to bring in more than $100 million in earnings this year through creative corporate partnerships, much of that delivered through branded merchandise. That puts him in the upper echelon of pitchmen, in terms of both income and creative impact. Without ownership, though, he’s not rich, just very well-paid. After all, he had a front-row seat to witness the mother of his child sell 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics to Coty for $1.2 billion. 

Which brings us back to the mysterious drink in the glass bottle, the strawberry-flavored Cacti beverage. Hard seltzer is a popular category in the liquor business, particularly among young people who also dig Travis Scott and his music. Plenty of his hip-hop peers have gotten rich from booze: Jay-Z did it with D’ussé Cognac. Ditto Diddy with Cîroc vodka. A spokesperson for Scott declines to give details about AB InBev, but all signs seem to indicate a partnership, which would be a natural evolution of Scott’s La Flame endorser-consultant model. 

“Right now,” Scott says, keeping matters intentionally vague, “we’re so locked in and we’re so ambitious on the next level—to just show people what we can do.”

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Travis Head saved South Australia with one of the most important hundreds he’s scored

Travis Head would have heard the hype as Cameron Green sounded a warning to Test selectors that he was ready for a step in to the big time.

But while the batting prodigy plundered 197 on a road in Adelaide, Head, the incumbent Test number six dug in and produced arguably an innings of way more substance on the oval next door to save his team with one of the best hundreds of his career.

Test skipper Tim Paine watched on from behind the stumps as Head batted all day, for the first time, to score an unbeaten 171 and draw the clash with Tasmania in “good signs” for the upcoming series against India.

Having nearly been out after a huge appeal for caught behind when he was on 99, Head batted with the sort of stoicism the Test middle-order needs.

“Trav played a pretty exceptional innings and it was the difference between us getting through them and not,” Paine said.

“We just coudn’t get rid of Heady, if we had of a bit earlier it might have changed the game. he played a brilliant innings.

“It was good signs from an Australian point of view.

“He’s one of those guys, he always seems to be batting well, but it was pleasing, now we have finished the game, to see him go on and bat big and even in the nmanner he did. I thought he controlled the game and batted with discipline.

“Sometimes Heady can give you a chance, that’s what we were hanging on to as a group, but today he batted us out of winning the game.”

“He’s still very young and he’s getting better and better and he will continue to.”

Head said he knew he had to “bat all day” and was happy to have put his team in the position they ended up in.

“All you can control is playing well for South Australia and today I was able to contribute,” Head said.

“I knew I had to bat all day and it was nice to be able to do that.

“I was able to get a start and go on and get a good score for the team and most importantly put us in the position we were at the end of the day, that’s the most pleasing part.

“I feel like if I am able to bat the way I did today, and do it for long periods of time, runs will come.”

Paine, who made his own century, said he had changed a few things in his batting and was planning on having a “big Test summer”.

“No matter your age I think it’s important you try and get better, and that’s something I am trying to do,” he said.

“For me to battle away and score a hundred like that was pleasing.”

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AFL Finals 2020 | Travis Boak’s plan to come home to Torquay, Victoria, post Port Adelaide Football Club

“I never played one senior game (for Torquay), so I want to get back there, play a few games in the number five.”

Some clubs viewed Boak as a flight risk if he left Victoria when he was in the draft of 2006, the same one that saw the Power net his close friend Robbie Gray and Justin Westhoff.

Recruiters knew that he’d just lost his father, that the family were a tight unit and that Torquay – and consequently the Cats – would exert a magnetic pull on Boak, whom Geelong actually ranked ahead of Joel Selwood in that draft’s pecking order.

Travis Boak.Credit:Getty Images

But the local lad never came home. Nor did fellow Victorian Gray and, despite constant speculation for two years, Ollie Wines, an Echuca lad, has stuck with Port, too. It’s worth considering the impact that Boak had upon the Power’s long-term prospects – football and even fiscally – when, after a very public courting by the Cats in mid 2012, he signed on with Port.

“I think a lot of us – myself, Robbie and Ollie and you know these guys, we’ve had to see it through,” said Boak, whose sincerity stands out as much as his bull-like attack on the football. “Once you commit to something, even though it wasn’t going so well for us for a few years, you know we wanted to turn it around ourselves.

“We never wanted to walk away from it, even though it did get really challenging at times. It’s pleasing to see our playing the footy we are now.

“That’s life, that’s footy, that’s business – walking away from something that’s not going well, it doesn’t fit well with myself and a lot of others here.”

Boak’s mother learned over time that Travis wouldn’t be coming home. “I think mum sort of always knew that I was going to stay, I think she was hopeful that I was coming back home … but she knew it would be really hard for me to leave.”

Port Adelaide are a club richer in tradition and camaraderie than dollars. Boak calls Port “a massive family” that like Richmond and Collingwood, has benefited from footy’s post-2017 buzzwords, “connection” between players and the sharing of stories and vulnerability.

One those stories has a special resonance for Boak: that of Todd Marshall, the young team mate who lost both parents in 2017 and 2018. Boak, having experienced the grief of losing his dad, has found himself in discussions with Marshall that he says have helped both men.

“We’ve definitely had discussions together and we’ve been drawn to conversations of how you get though that. I think, you know hopefully, I’ve been able to inspire him getting through some hard times and he’s certainly been able to do that with me.”

Boak said 2020 was “probably” his best season to date, a fair achievement for a 32-year-old, who’s among the top fancies for the Brownlow (after the Winx-like favourite Lachie Neale), and perhaps the most enjoyable season, too, due to the team performance, bonds and improvement.

Giving up the captaincy after 2018 allowed Boak to “shift my focus.” As skipper, Boak felt that he’d fretted too much about matters outside his control. “I was trying to control too many things.”

While chairman David Koch placed the acid on coach Ken Hinkley with a finals-or-bust declaration – in what some observers thought unnecessary pressure on a coach (who had a finals trigger in his contract) – Boak saw the Koch edict as a positive for the team.

“We kind of loved it. Internally we believed we are a very, very good side. I guess that probably for Kenny (showed) that he was very, very vulnerable, he knew, he understood … we’ve had this belief that this is what we can do.”

Boak is contracted until the end of 2022, which means his tenure at Port – which includes a grand final back in 2007 (when they were smashed by the Cats), but none since – should stretch for at least 16 seasons.

After that, the only club that seems to have any chance of getting Boak are the Tigers – the Torquay version.


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Magpies’ Travis Varcoe retires from AFL

Collingwood veteran and two-time Geelong premiership player Travis Varcoe has retired from the AFL after 230 games and 171 goals.

Varcoe, 32, played nine games this season but wasn’t selected for either of Collingwood’s two finals, with the round 18 loss to Port Adelaide his last game.

“I’ve run my race,” Varcoe said.

“I don’t have another season left in the tank. I leave feeling very fortunate and thankful for all that two wonderful clubs, Geelong and Collingwood, did for me and my family.

“I hope I was able to give something back to both of them in return for the support and care I received. As a footballer, you don’t do it alone on or off the field.”

Selected by Geelong at pick No.15 in the 2005 AFL draft, Varcoe debuted in 2007 and went on to play 138 games for the Cats.

He won premierships in 2009 and 2011, kicking three goals against Collingwood in the latter grand final.

Varcoe arrived at Collingwood at the end of 2014 as part of a three-way trade that saw Heritier Lumumba join Melbourne and Mitch Clark head to the Cats.

He played 92 games for Collingwood, including helping the club to a grand final appearance in 2018 – a season where he also suffered the death of his sister Maggie just before the finals.

“At his best, Trav was a dynamic player who could hunt opponent or ball with real intent,” Collingwood general manager of football Geoff Walsh said.

“He was what we needed when he joined us and he has never stopped being a solid member of the group.”

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Collingwood Magpies’ Travis Varcoe announces retirement

“I don’t have another season left in the tank. I leave feeling very fortunate and thankful for all that two wonderful clubs, Geelong and Collingwood, did for me and my family.

“I hope I was able to give something back to both of them in return for the support and care I received. As a footballer, you don’t do it alone on or off the field.”

Varcoe kicks the first goal of the 2011 grand final. Credit:Pat Scala

Pies head of football Geoff Walsh praised Varcoe and his family, wife Kim and their two daughters, Olivia and Franki, for their contribution to the club.

“At his best, Trav was a dynamic player who could hunt opponent or ball with real intent. He was what we needed when he joined us and he has never stopped being a solid member of the group,” Walsh said.

“All of Collingwood thanks Trav, Kim and their family.”


The equally tough-tackling and cleanly skilled Varcoe was key to Collingwood’s 2018 run, playing in the qualifying final loss to West Coast days after his sister, Maggie, died following an accident on the footy field in South Australia.

He arrived at Collingwood for the 2015 season in a three way trade that also sent Heritier Lumumba to Melbourne and Mitch Clark to Geelong.

Varcoe played for the Indigenous All Stars in 2009 and for Australia in the International Rules series in 2010.

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2020 AFL season set to resume with huge blockbusters as league’s fixture boss Travis Auld confirms fixtures for rounds two to five

The 2020 AFL season will re-commence with a bang after AFL Fixtures Boss Travis Auld confirmed a blockbuster round two schedule.

Competition heavyweights Collingwood and Richmond will officially resume the disrupted 2020 season with a Thursday night epic, while West Coast will tackle Gold Coast and the Dockers take on Lachie Neale’s Lions.

Both matches involving WA clubs will take place on Saturday June 13, while the traditional Easter Monday clash between Hawthorn and Geelong headlines the first Friday night clash of the competition’s restart.

The match, to be hosted at the Cattery, will be Hawthorn’s first trip to GMHBA Stadium since 2006.

The South Australian Showdown will also feature in round two, with the Crows and Power to join the Gold Coast hub after the round two clash.

Camera IconTravis Auld, Fixtures Boss (left) and Gillon McLachlan, Chief Executive Officer of the AFL (right). Credit: Michael Willson/AFL Media

Auld released the revised schedule up to round five, with the Eagles squaring off against the Lions in round three, Port Adelaide in round four and interestingly, the Tigers in round five.

West Coast will be considered the ‘home team’ for their clash against the reigning premiers at Metricon Stadium.

Meanwhile, the Dockers will lock horns with Port Adelaide in round three, the Suns in round four and the Crows in round five.

Fremantle will be considered the ‘home team’ for their clash against the Power.

After round five, both WA clubs remain hopeful of returning to the west, which is reliant on the state of WA’s hard border closure enforced by premier Mark McGowan.


Thursday, June 11

Collingwood vs Richmond, MCG

Friday, June 12

Geelong vs Hawthorn, GMHBA Stadium

Saturday June 13

Brisbane vs Fremantle, Gabba

Carlton vs Melbourne, Marvel Stadium

Port Adelaide vs Adelaide, Adelaide Oval

Gold Coast vs West Coast, Metricon

Sunday, June 14

Sydney vs Essendon, SCG

GWS vs North Melbourne, Giants Stadium

St Kilda vs Western Bulldogs, Marvel Stadium

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Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick behind $66.9 million deal for Los Angeles mansion

News Corp Australia Network

LA estate recently purchased by Travis Kalanick. Picture: Mansion Global

The sale is one of the largest to close in L.A. since the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Mansion Global

Travis Kalanick, the co-founder and former chief executive of rideshare company Uber, is the previously undisclosed buyer who paid $AU66.9 million ($US43.3 million) for a Los Angeles estate, according to sources with knowledge of the deal.

Known as the Bellagio estate, the property traded well below its original $AU115 million ($US 75 million) asking price, but is one of the largest L.A. home sales to close since the coronavirus pandemic.

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LA estate recently purchased by Travis Kalanick. Picture: Mansion Global

The home dates back to around 1930 but recently underwent a renovation. Picture: Mansion Global

LA estate recently purchased by Travis Kalanick. Picture: Mansion Global

The dining room. Picture: Mansion Global

LA estate recently purchased by Travis Kalanick. Picture: Mansion Global

The enormous 7,000 bottle wine cellar. Picture: Mansion Global

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Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Picture: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The seller was a limited liability company tied to real-estate investor Christopher Cole, records show.

Mr. Cole’s company paid $38 million for the property in 2015. Another previous owner of the property was the late NFL team owner Georgia Frontiere.

LA estate recently purchased by Travis Kalanick. Picture: Mansion Global

An entertainment area with a bar. Picture: Mansion Global

LA estate recently purchased by Travis Kalanick. Picture: Mansion Global

One of the two swimming pools. Picture: Mansion Global

LA estate recently purchased by Travis Kalanick. Picture: Mansion Global

One of the seven bedrooms. Picture: Mansion Global

The Spanish Colonial Revival-style mansion, designed around 1930 by architect Paul Williams, underwent a three-year renovation before hitting the market last year.

The house measures about 1860sqm, with seven bedrooms and a huge 7,000-bottle wine cellar finished in 18th-century limestone.

LA estate recently purchased by Travis Kalanick. Picture: Mansion Global

The so-called Bellagio estate, recently purchased by Travis Kalanick, came on the market last year for $75 million. Picture: Mansion Global

LA estate recently purchased by Travis Kalanick. Picture: Mansion Global

One of the swish offices. Picture: Mansion Global

LA estate recently purchased by Travis Kalanick. Picture: Mansion Global

And another. Picture: Mansion Global

The nearly 2-acre property also includes two swimming pools and a tennis court.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Kalanick didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Kalanick was ousted by investors from his post as Uber’s chief executive in 2017, and now heads kitchen rental company CloudKitchens.

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LA estate recently purchased by Travis Kalanick. Picture: Mansion Global

Plenty of room for a hit of tennis too. Picture: Mansion Global

LA estate recently purchased by Travis Kalanick. Picture: Mansion Global

One of the luxurious bathrooms. Picture: Mansion Global

LA estate recently purchased by Travis Kalanick. Picture: Mansion Global

The signatory on the deed for the Bellagio estate was CloudKitchens founder Diego Berdakin, leading to reports that Mr. Berdakin was the buyer of the home. Mr. Berdakin couldn’t be reached for comment.

Mr. Kalanick also owns a large penthouse in New York City, which he bought for $US 36.5 million in 2018.

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Gregory and Travis McMichael charged with murder of Ahmaud Arbery

Arrest warrants for Gregory and Travis McMichael filed in court on Friday confirmed, as the initial police report stated, that Travis McMichael “pointed and discharged a shotgun … at Ahmaud Arbery.” But there were no new details.

In a letter to Glynn County police in early April, a prosecutor previously assigned to the case outlined reasons he believed there was “insufficient probable cause to issue arrest warrants” in the case. Waycross DA George E Barnhill argued that the McMichaels’ actions were legal under Georgia laws on citizen’s arrests, the open carry of guns and self-defence.

The McMichaels told police they pursued Arbery, with another person recording them on video, after spotting him running in their neighbourhood. The father and son said they thought he matched the appearance of a burglary suspect who they said had been recorded on a surveillance camera some time before.

Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper Jones, has said she thinks her son, a former high school football player, was just jogging in the Satilla Shores neighbourhood before he was killed.

Arbery would have turned 26 on Friday, and a crowd of several hundred people, most wearing masks, sang “Happy Birthday” in his honour outside the Glynn County Courthouse. Many expressed frustration at the long wait before arrests were made and fears that the justice system will fail them.

“The work is just beginning,” John Perry, president of the Brunswick NAACP chapter, told the crowd. “We can’t stop now. We can’t lose focus and we’ve got to make sure the prosecution gets done.”

Anthony Johnson, 40, said Arbery was his neighbour for about a decade. He said he wanted to see the McMichaels get the same treatment in the legal system as black defendants.

“Just arresting them, that ain’t doing nothing,” Johnson said. “We want them convicted. We want them sent to prison for life.”

Gregory and Travis McMichael made their first, brief court appearances on Friday afternoon.

The father and son, both wearing orange jumpsuits, appeared individually from jail on a videoconference screen in the courtroom of Magistrate Judge Wallace Harrell. Inmates aren’t appearing in person because of the coronavirus.

The judge spent roughly a minute reading each man his rights and the charges faced. A Superior Court judge will have to decide whether to grant them bond.

The McMichaels spoke only when asked to confirm their names. Neither had attorneys representing them in court. No further hearing dates were scheduled.

The felony murder charges against Gregory McMichael, 64, and Travis McMichael, 34, mean that a victim was killed during the commission of an underlying felony, in this case aggravated assault. The charge doesn’t require intent to kill.

A murder conviction in Georgia is automatically punishable by life in prison, either with or without the possibility of parole. A prosecutor can also seek the death penalty in a murder case if certain aggravating circumstances exist.

A GBI news release said the McMichaels “confronted Arbery with two firearms. During the encounter, Travis McMichael shot and killed Arbery.”

Some of the encounter was apparently recorded in two 911 calls, with a dispatcher trying to understand the problem.

“There’s a black male running down the street,” the caller says.

“I just need to know what he was doing wrong,” the dispatcher responds, in part.

In a second call six minutes later, someone can be heard yelling “Stop. … Dammit. Stop.” Then, after a pause, “Travis!”

Ahmaud Arbery stumbles and falls to the ground after being shot as Travis McMichael stands by holding a shotgun in a neighbourhood outside Brunswick, Georgia. Credit:AP

Gregory McMichael retired last year as an investigator for Glynn County District Attorney Jackie Johnson; the connection caused Johnson to recuse herself. Barnhill then got the case before recusing himself under pressure from Arbery’s family because his son works in Johnson’s office.

Tom Durden, the outside prosecutor overseeing the case, had said he wanted a grand jury to decide whether charges are warranted, but Georgia courts are still largely closed because of the coronavirus. Durden said on Friday that he won’t bow to public pressure from one side or another.

The leaked video shows a black man running at a jogging pace. The truck is stopped in the road ahead of him, with one of the white men standing in the pickup’s bed and the other beside the open driver’s side door.


The running man attempts to pass the pickup on the passenger side, moving just beyond the truck, briefly outside the camera’s view. A gunshot sounds, and the video shows the runner grappling with a man over what appears to be a shotgun or rifle. A second shot can be heard, and the runner can be seen punching the man. A third shot is fired at point-blank range. The runner staggers a few feet and falls face down.

“They did not arrest the killers of Ahmaud Arbery because they saw the video,” Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the slain man’s father, Marcus Arbery, told The Associated Press on Friday. “They arrested the killers of Ahmaud Arbery because we saw the video, the public saw the video and it went viral. It was shocking. People were astonished.”

The outcry over the killing reached the White House, where President Donald Trump offered condolences to Arbery’s family.

Trump said on Friday on Fox News Channel that he’d seen the video.

“It’s a heartbreak … very rough, rough stuff,” Trump added. “Justice getting done is what solves that problem. It’s in the hands of the governor and I’m sure he’ll do the right thing.”

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