George Pyne announces first investment with Bruin

30 March 2015 | Posted in Notes & Insights | By James Emmett | Contact the author

George Pyne announces first investment with Bruin

Former Nascar and IMG executive George Pyne has made his first investment through his new Bruin Sports Capital vehicle.

In partnership with RedBird Capital Partners, Bruin will invest growth capital and assume operational control of the National Football League's (NFL) premium events and hospitality business, NFL On Location (NFL OL).

NFL OL, which has been operational for ten years, offers event, hospitality and travel packages in and around the NFL's marquee league events - the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, NFL Draft, and NFL International Series games in London.

The NFL has granted Bruin and RedBird a 'long-term licence' to run the business, which will be renamed in due course. In a separate transaction, the league has also invested in the new holding company through its private equity arm, 32 Equity.

Pyne, whose Bruin Sports Capital venture received US$250 million in January from a group of seven or eight investors that include WPP and Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, will become executive chairman of the newco.

In an interview with SportsPro following the announcement of the deal on Monday, Pyne and Gerry Cardinale, founder and managing partner of RedBird Capital Partners, said the licence, though undisclosed, would run for a "legitimately long-term period" nearer to 15 years than five.

Pyne explained that a branding agency had been hired to work on a "thoughtful" name for the new company, which he expects to announce within 60 to 90 days.

"The first priority for us will be to do a good job in executing for Super Bowl 50," Pyne told SportsPro. "Then we’ll be prudent and methodical in trying to identify opportunities for reinvention and growth, both inside and outside the NFL, as they present themselves.”

Pyne and Cardinale intend to upscale the NFL OL business, in its new guise, taking the model into other areas of the sports industry.

"It's a confluence of two things," explained Cardinale. "One, the NFL built a business that has been so successful that I think it's worthy of becoming a standalone business, and two, I’ve always said that I think sports is some of the best reality television programming that’s out there, and there’s so much competition for eyeballs today that frankly to be able to gather a large group of people on a live-event basis and provide a world class experience for them is something that the NFL has been a trailblazer in.

"You put those two things together and it screams out that this should be a standalone business that we can cross-pollinate, taking best practices from what we do at the NFL and making it available to others."

As a partner at Goldman Sachs, Cardinale orchestrated the launch of the YES Network and Legends Hospitality, and he accepts that there are parallels to draw between the new company and the latter entity, which was founded in 2008 after he brought the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys together for the proposition.

"There are some similarities and there are some differences," said Cardinale. "Legends was a company that we created with the Yankees and the Cowboys when I was at Goldman. NFL On Location is a business that has existed for the last decade. We are recapitalising it as a standalone company. One of the reasons we’re doing that is because we think it can serve as a global platform outside the NFL. From that standpoint, absolutely there are parallels: what we’re doing here is partnering with an iconic rights holder and we’re helping them provide best-in-class services to their fans, and that is something that is global in nature."

For his part, Pyne ruled out any further investments or acquisitions in the hospitality sector through Bruin independently. "I'd be doing that with Gerry," he said. "This newco will be the hospitality arm for Bruin. But we’ll be pursuing other opportunities outside of hospitality globally."

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