Combination to Provide Collegiate Athletic Programs and their Sponsors with Increased Exposure and Greater Economic Opportunities in an Increasingly Dynamic and Competitive Marketing Landscape
PLANO, TX and NEW YORK, NY – Learfield, a leading provider of integrated marketing solutions in college sports, and IMG, a global leader in sports, events, media, and fashion, today announced a definitive agreement under which Learfield and IMG College, the collegiate division of IMG, will merge to create a more dynamic service provider in the increasingly competitive sports and entertainment marketing landscape. Learfield and IMG, which is a subsidiary of WME | IMG, are both privately held companies, and financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Greg Brown, President and CEO of Learfield, said, “We are excited about partnering with IMG College, and believe that this combination will enable a better, more innovative future for collegiate athletic programs and their fans. By combining, we will be better positioned to champion the success of collegiate athletics in the years ahead through the development of new services and offerings that will provide greater benefits to our clients and brand partners than either company could do alone. Together, we will more efficiently assist schools in identifying and implementing methods to derive maximum value for their rights and sponsorship deals in light of greater competition with professional sports leagues and other entertainment options.”
Patrick Whitesell, Co-CEO of WME | IMG, added, “This merger will bolster the opportunities available for brands across the sports landscape and deliver greater value for our partner schools through enhanced services in areas including data, ticketing, and retail insight. We are confident that together we will better enable our partner institutions to generate much-needed revenue and look forward to furthering our investment in this space and generating enhanced value for collegiate sports.”
IMG and Atairos, which owns Learfield and is an independent private company focused on supporting growth-oriented businesses across a wide range of industries, will retain ownership of the new entity. Silver Lake, a strategic partner and long-term investor in WME | IMG, will acquire a minority stake in the combined business through a new capital deployment.
Michael Angelakis, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Atairos, and Egon Durban, Managing Partner of Silver Lake, said, “Our organizations are excited to be long-term partners alongside IMG in this unique company. The management team of the combined entity has an exceptional 30+ year track record of growth and developing premium offerings to serve its collegiate and brand partners. We look forward to supporting the company’s continued growth and innovation under the team’s leadership.”
Compelling Strategic Benefits
- Positions the combined company to better serve its clients in the increasingly dynamic and competitive sports marketing landscape: The combined company will build on each company’s resources, relationships, and experience to provide enhanced services, more consistent promotions, technological innovation, and greater economic opportunities to their partners, including collegiate athletic departments, institutions, and brands. Compared to professional sports leagues, college sports programs have only just begun to pursue new opportunities by using data to better understand their customers and anticipate their needs. As such, the companies are also planning substantial investments to expand the range and depth of services offered to their collegiate partners.
- Ensures collegiate sports are as competitive as ever in the pursuit of rights and sponsorships: The combined company will offer a comprehensive suite of services, including representation and management of collegiate multimedia rights and licensing, to provide athletic departments with a valuable alternative to efficiently handle their marketing operations in-house, through their athletic conferences, or in partnership with well-financed firms and professional sports teams. Further, as competition continues to increase with professional sports leagues – including the NFL, NBA, and others – and the broader entertainment industry, the combined company will enable collegiate athletic programs to realize even greater value.
- Delivers significant benefits and opportunities for employees: The overwhelming majority of Learfield and IMG College’s partner schools are serviced by offices and employees located on or near campuses across the country. As a result, combining the two companies and expanding capabilities and service offerings will protect existing jobs while creating new opportunities and delivering significant benefits for current and future employees as part of a more diverse and faster-growing company.
For additional information on the collegiate sports landscape, click here.
Management Team, Board of Directors, & Headquarters
After the transaction closes, following regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions, the combined company will be headquartered in Plano, TX, and maintain offices across the United States. Learfield President and CEO Greg Brown will serve as President and CEO of the combined company.
The Board of Directors for the new company will consist of representatives from Atairos, Learfield, WME | IMG, and Silver Lake.
Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and Proskauer Rose LLP acted as legal counsel to Learfield and Atairos, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP acted as legal counsel to WME | IMG, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider LLP acted as legal counsel to Silver Lake. Raine acted as financial advisor to WME | IMG.
Learfield has a deep presence in the college athletics landscape nationwide. It manages the multimedia and sponsorship rights for many collegiate institutions, conferences and arenas, and supports athletic departments at all competitive levels as title sponsor of the prestigious Learfield Directors’ Cup. Learfield also provides its collegiate partners access to professional concessions and ticket sales; branding, licensing and trademark consulting; digital and social platform expertise; campus-wide business and sponsorship development; and venue and technology systems through its affiliated companies.
IMG is a global leader in sports, events, media and fashion, operating in more than 30 countries. The company represents and manages some of the world’s greatest sports figures and fashion icons; stages hundreds of live events and branded entertainment experiences annually; and is a leading independent producer and distributor of sports and entertainment media. IMG also specializes in sports training; league development; and marketing, media and licensing for brands, sports organizations and collegiate institutions.
About IMG College
A division of IMG, IMG College represents schools, conferences and other collegiate institutions across multimedia rights, licensing, marketing, ticketing, seating, publishing, radio and digital, including a number of schools in the Power 5 conferences. IMG companies under the IMG College banner include IMG College Licensing and 5.0 Communications.
About Atairos Group
Atairos is an independent, private company focused on supporting growth-oriented businesses across a wide range of industries. Atairos provides a unique combination of active strategic partnership and patient long-term capital to high-potential companies and their management teams. Atairos was launched in 2016 with more than $4 billion in committed capital and has offices in New York and Bryn Mawr, PA. For more information, please visit www.atairos.com.
About Silver Lake
Silver Lake is the global leader in technology investing, with about $39 billion in combined assets under management and committed capital and a team of approximately 100 investment and value creation professionals located in Silicon Valley, New York, London, Hong Kong and Tokyo. Silver Lake’s portfolio of investments collectively generates more than $140 billion of revenue annually and employs more than 300,000 people globally. The firm’s current portfolio includes leading technology and technology-enabled businesses such as Alibaba Group, Ancestry, Broadcom Limited, Cast & Crew, Ctrip, Dell Technologies, Fanatics, Global Blue, GoDaddy, Motorola Solutions, Red Ventures, Sabre, SoFi, SolarWinds, Symantec, and WME | IMG. For more information about Silver Lake and its entire portfolio, please visit www.silverlake.com.
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