Senior Research Analyst
Some of the key hallmarks of an attractive private equity deal include businesses with a loyal and diversified customer base, recession-resistant and diversified revenue streams, and observable, steady growth in historic asset values. While this may be a mission-critical software company, it may also be the English Premier League or the National Basketball Association. A growing consortium of private equity funds has begun to recognize the inherent value of professional sports and is increasingly purchasing stakes in leagues, teams, media rights, and related real estate. As of August, $6.2 billion had already been invested in 2022, with the full year on track to exceed 2021’s $6.3 billion. Much of this can be attributed to the swell of activity in European football leagues, with the Chelsea Football Club comprising nearly half of the 2022 year-to-date total.¹
From an investor’s perspective, professional sports franchises provide economic exposure to a diverse set of assets, low correlation to broader equity markets, and recurring and predictable revenue streams. The observable growth in asset value has also added to private equity’s interest in the segment. In the 20 years ended 2021, the average cumulative price return for professional sports team franchises in the NHL (+467%), the NFL (+558%), the MLB (+669%), and the NBA (+1,057%) all outpaced the S&P (+458%), according to Forbes, Sportico, and Pitchbook data. While valuations have risen with a limited number of franchises available to buy, the numbers reflect the attractive characteristics of the assets, such as broadcasting rights, streaming, and the opportunity to further monetize a dedicated fan base. While still in the early innings (or first quarter, half, or period), this is a sub-segment within private equity worth a keen eye as investment continues to grow.
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