Learfield Communications, Inc., the leading provider of integrated marketing solutions in college sports, announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Atairos Group, Inc., an independent private company focused on supporting growth-oriented businesses, from Providence Equity Partners. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
“As we continue to execute on our long-term strategic growth plan and deliver best-in-class services and support to our collegiate partners, we are excited to partner with Atairos and look forward to their expertise and support,” said President and CEO Greg Brown. “Over the last three years with Providence, our core multimedia rights business grew substantially, while we developed new digital offerings, an extensive national sales platform, and built out additional products and services through acquisitions, strategic partnerships and organic initiatives. We are well positioned to pursue our robust growth strategy in partnership with Atairos, a long-term investor which brings complementary resources and a close relationship with Comcast-NBCUniversal, which will help us continue to provide innovative solutions for our collegiate and corporate partners.”
Brown will continue to lead the senior management team, all of whom will remain shareholders in the Company. Aside from new growth investments, there are no plans to make changes to the staffing, management or operations of the Company. I’m extraordinarily pleased we will be working with the tremendous team at Atairos,” added Brown. “Given their understanding of the Learfield culture, their appreciation for our deep relationships in collegiate athletics, and their long-term commitment, we feel this partnership will be an incredible advantage as we continue to grow our Company.”
Michael Angelakis, Chairman and CEO of Atairos, said, “We have admired Learfield for quite some time and have tremendous confidence in Greg Brown and his leadership team. We believe that our sector expertise combined with our long-term investment approach will enable the Company to accelerate its growth initiatives, achieve its strategic goals, and continue to deliver world-class solutions to its clients and partners. As the Company transitions to this exciting new chapter, we are enthusiastic about the opportunities ahead and look forward to partnering with the entire Learfield team for many years to come.”
Atairos is an independent firm that brings to Learfield a host of valuable experience and resources, including its strategic partnership with Comcast-NBCUniversal. Based on Atairos’ strategic relationships, Learfield anticipates potential collaborations to develop new opportunities, services, and insights for its collegiate partners, particularly in programming, digital capabilities and social media. As universities continue to explore new ways to enhance the fan experience, Atairos will assist Learfield in engaging entertainment industry leaders to help schools and sponsors in developing new strategies to build deeper connections with the various collegiate audiences.
Michael Dominguez, Managing Director at Providence Equity, said, “We have enjoyed a tremendous partnership with Greg and the entire Learfield team, and we are extremely gratified to have helped them identify and execute innovative opportunities to serve their customers. We have been impressed by the deep relationships that they have developed across college sports in helping to deliver new ideas and growth to athletic departments across the country, which are then in turn better positioned to care for their student athletes. It is a testament to Greg and his entire team that they are able to balance this rapid growth while remaining focused on their core business and maintaining their unique culture. We have no doubt they will continue their success in the years ahead.”
Providence acquired a majority stake in Learfield in September 2013 and over the past three years, Learfield has added 10 businesses through acquisitions, including Nelligan Sports Marketing, LRG, SIDEARM Sports, Strategic Marketing Affiliates, ANC, Front Row Marketing Services’ collegiate MMR properties, KP Sports, Think Social, SME, and GoVision. The Company has invested in its multimedia rights business including through its re-branded campus-wide business development initiative, Campus+, and through joint ventures such as its most recent partnership with Kraft Analytics Group, KLEARintel, to provide universities with a precise understanding of their fans through data analytics.
Moelis & Company acted as financial adviser and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP acted as legal adviser to Providence in connection with this transaction. Deutsche Bank acted as financial adviser and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and Latham & Watkins LLP acted as legal advisers to Atairos.
An industry leader for more than four decades, Learfield has a deep presence in the college athletics landscape nationwide. It manages the multimedia and sponsorship rights for more than 120 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. For more information, please visit www.learfieldsports.com.
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 Providence Equity Partners
Providence is a premier, global asset management firm with $47 billion in assets under management across complementary private equity and credit businesses. Providence pioneered a sector focused approach to private equity investing with the vision that a dedicated team of industry experts could build exceptional companies of enduring value. Since the firm’s inception in 1989, Providence has invested in more than 150 companies and is the leading equity investment firm focused on the media, communications, education and information industries. Providence is headquartered in Providence, RI and also has offices in New York, London, Hong Kong, Singapore and New Delhi. For more information on Providence Equity, please visit www.provequity.com.