The company that owns Sports Illustrated is launching an initial public offering. Authentic Brands Group bought SI from magazine publisher Meredith in 2019, then struck a deal with Maven to run SI’s media operations. Beyond their ownership of SI, ABG owns and licenses image and likeness rights for everyone from Muhammad Ali through Elvis Presley and Shaquille O’Neal. And now, they’re launching an IPO, as Brendan Coffey writes at Sportico:
Authentic Brands Group, an owner of brands and intellectual property including Muhammad Ali, Forever 21 and Sports Illustrated, has filed for an initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Authentic Brands made nearly $500 million last year licensing more than two dozen retail and lifestyle brands as well as the images and likenesses of icons that also include Shaquille O’Neal, “Dr. J” Julius Erving, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley.
Authentic Brands didn’t specify a valuation or how much it is seeking to raise in its IPO. Typically, companies will file an initial prospectus without those details and then amend the prospectus later as they get closer to selling.
ABG’s business model is ‘asset light,’ meaning it simply owns the brands and intellectual property and collects licensing fees from about 1,000 organizations worldwide, including Under Armour for the rights to use images of boxing legend Ali in promoting its brand. ABG’s deal for Sports Illustrated, acquired in 2019 for $110 million, is essentially only for its IP. (The magazine’s current publishing operations are controlled by another company.) Overall, ABG has spent about $2.6 billion acquiring brands since CEO Jamie Salter founded the company in 2010, according to the document.
As Coffey notes, ABG certainly pulls in a lot of licensing revenue. However, whether that will translate to IPO success is another matter. And an interesting part of that may be about perceived valuations of Sports Illustrated, which has come under a lot of fire during Maven’s operation of that brand. We’ll see how this IPO works out for ABG.