Learfield has completed a $1.1 billion restructuring of its debt, bringing in private equity firms to help stabilize the company.
Per the Sports Business Journal, Clearlake Capital Group, Charlesbank Capital Partners, and funds managed by the Fortress Investment Group are Learfield’s new majority owners, with former majority owners Endeavor, Silver Lake, and Atairos now holding minority stakes.
In a major financial reboot for the 51-year-old company, Learfield has completed a $1.1B recapitalization that will greatly reduce the company’s debt while also infusing $150M in new equity investment into the Texas-based firm. The massive restructuring will reduce Learfield’s debt from $1.1B to $500M after an 11-month debt-restructuring process that President & CEO Cole Gahagan described as a seminal moment for the company whose future was in doubt.
The new arrangement, which should firmly stabilize the leading rights holder in college athletics, will provide the company with equity investment and a new set of majority owners: Clearlake Capital Group, Charlesbank Capital Partners and funds managed by Fortress Investment Group. Learfield’s new board of directors will be assigned so that each firm will have representation. Other directors from outside of the majority owners could be on the board as well.
In recent years, Learfield has transitioned into a tech, data, and content business from its past as a marketing and media company. Per the Dallas Morning News, Learfield “offers licensed merchandise, game ticketing, donor identification for athletic programs, exclusive custom content, marketing initiatives, NIL (name, image and likeness) solutions and digital platforms.” The company’s debt has grown in recent years due in part to “negative contracts” it was able to exit and others it was able to renegotiate, along with the COVID-forced cancellation of college sporting events and various acquisitions prior to Learfield’s merger with IMG in 2018.
The restructuring and lack of a bankruptcy process will avoid some financial pain in the world of college sports, which isn’t a bad thing.