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PE Takes the Field with Sports Franchises

Several notable financial sponsors have also been actively involved in the buying and selling of sports franchises

While ownership of a sports team hasn't always been considered an ideal way to generate consistent cash flow, various owners - namely those who have roots in financial services - have been known to make money.

In some cases, they turn a team around and, after a brief holding period, sell it at a profit - the modus operandi of many private equity firms.

Whether that scenario plays out with the National Hockey League (NHL) team the New Jersey Devils remains to be seen. A pair of private equity veterans recently won the auction for the Devils for $320 million. The buyers include Josh Harris, owner of National Basketball Association's Philadelphia 76ers and co-founder of private equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC (NYSE: APO), and David Blitzer, a senior managing director at Blackstone Group LP (NYSE: BX).

The Devils, which lost roughly $25 million in the past year, is a struggling franchise. The team's owner, Jeff Vanderbeek, was reportedly in talks in January to sell his controlling interest to an investment group.

Harris announced that he had been considering a purchase of the team for months but talks stalled due to Vanderbeek considering rival offers.

Ultimately, Harris and company won out and the Devils will continue playing at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

In addition to Harris and Blitzer, several other notable financial sponsors have also been actively involved in the buying and selling of sports franchises.

Mark Attanasio - Attanasio, a senior executive with the money management firms TCW/Crescent Mezzanine and Trust Company of the West, reached a deal in September 2004 to purchase the Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise the Milwaukee Brewers.


Steve Cohen - The hedge fund titan who operates the $14 billion SAC Capital Advisors, spent $20 million for a 4 percent stake in the New York Mets MLB club in February 2012.


John Henry - Henry founded financial trading firm John W. Henry & Co. and went on to sell the Marlins to the then-owner of the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals) Jeffrey Loria in January 2002. Simultaneously, Henry led a purchase of the Boston Red Sox with partners Tom Werner and the New York Times Co. from the Yawkey Trust headed by John Harrington. The Red Sox went on to win the World Series in 2004 and again in 2007 with Henry as owner.


Stuart Sternberg - Sternberg worked with investment group Spear Leeds & Kellogg and went on to become a partner in the firm before moving to Goldman Sachs Group, retiring as a partner in 2002. Sternberg purchased a 48 percent stake in the team now known as the Tampa Bay Rays (previously named Devil Rays) in May 2004, and took over as managing general partner in October 2005. He also arranged his bid for controlling interest in the team with fellow Goldman Sachs partner Matthew Silverman, whom he named president of the team.


David Tepper - A bankruptcy specialist, Tepper was recruited in 1985 to Goldman Sachs, where he became the head trader on the high-yield desk. He left Goldman in December 1992 and founded hedge fund Appaloosa Management in early 1993. In September 2009, he went on to buy a stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers professional football team.

 

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