Cole Gahagan

 

 

Cole GahaganPresident and Chief Executive Officer

As the President and CEO of Learfield, Cole leads the largest sports media and technology company in college athletics. The company consists of multiple entities, each serving sports and live events. Cole joined Learfield in early 2020, previously serving as Chief Commercial Officer for Fanatics. Before that, he held executive leadership roles at Ticketmaster and Live Nation, including Chief Revenue Officer and Senior Vice President of Development and Strategy.

Under Cole’s leadership, Learfield has innovated across all company business areas including the completion of the Fanbase data platform, the company’s proprietary programmatic advertising product, Fan365, the launch of Learfield Studios, and the monetization of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL), to name a few.

Cole also recently led the company in a landmark recapitalization, strengthening its financial position and providing additional capital to fuel innovation and growth.

As a respected leader and visionary, Cole has been the recipient of Sports Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Award, Leaders in Sport’s Leaders Under 40 Award, and named to Billboard Magazine’s list of Top 25 Digital Players in Entertainment.

Under Cole’s leadership, Learfield has innovated across all company business areas. This process started in early 2020 with the completion of the Fanbase data platform, which now serves as the most significant data infrastructure in college athletics – spanning 130 school partners and reaching over 150 million college fans. With the success of Fanbase, Learfield was quickly able to take the company’s proprietary programmatic advertising product, Fan365, to the over 15,000 brands that the company supports within its Multimedia Rights division – increasing the number of digital programs by over 100%. Beyond these critical initiatives, Cole launched Learfield Studios in 2021, becoming one of the largest media and content engines in US sports, delivering over 1,500 units of content spanning 700 series and representing over 300 brand partners that delivered 435 million impressions to fans.

During Cole’s tenure as CEO, the college sports landscape has changed dramatically, with perhaps the most significant change revolving around the rights of student-athletes to now monetize their Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL), which commenced on July 1, 2021. Since then, Learfield has led the industry in programs meant to help create more opportunities for student-athletes and brand partners alike, culminating with the launch of Learfield Allied in 2022. Under Learfield’s NIL program, over 100 Learfield school properties participated in NIL sponsorships, incorporating over 2,300 student-athletes into over 500 sponsor campaigns. Additionally, in September of 2023, in partnership with the University of Alabama, Learfield launched the Advantage Center, the first-of-its-kind NIL campus content center, designed to help educate student-athletes engage in commercial opportunities, develop brand connections, create unique content, and generate more NIL revenue.

Throughout this period of innovation and growth, Cole directed Learfield through some of the more difficult times in live entertainment, overcoming the business challenges of COVID-19 and rebounding the business with record growth rates. He also led an extensive capital raise in 2021, securing over $240 million to help fuel growth for the company. In 2023, Cole architected a landmark recapitalization for the company. Through this transaction, Learfield reduced its outstanding debt by over $600 million and secured $150 million in new equity investment, strengthening its financial position, and providing additional capital to fuel innovation and growth.

Cole’s dedication and passion for serving others extends to the greater community through his launch of the company’s nationwide partnership with Team IMPACT, and his personal involvement as a member of the board of directors.

Although he’s a fan of every university partner that Learfield serves, Cole holds a BBA from Texas Christian University and an MBA from Southern Methodist University, which means he might occasionally root a bit more for the Horned Frogs and Mustangs. Cole resides in Dallas, Texas with his wife, Jackie, and their two children, Henry, and Annabel.

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ABOUT
COLE

Walk-On Song

Shine A Light
The Rolling Stones

Favorite Sports Movie

The Natural

 

Advice To His Younger Self

Seek regular guidance and feedback, particularly in necessary areas of improvement, from those you work with and for. Few people offer positive feedback, and even fewer offer constructive feedback. You have to seek it out.

Learned from a Mentor

When growing a company, it’s easy to get distracted; to feel the need to pivot or diversify. Focus obsessively on becoming the best at what you do – the undisputed leader in that space – and then look for new areas of growth.

Best thing about our business

The people – those inside our walls, and those we support. This industry is filled with remarkable people who genuinely care about creating opportunities for others, and particularly student-athletes, and growing our space as a result. That’s a unique aspect that you don’t usually find in other businesses.