(Corrects spelling of Jan Tops in seventh paragraph.)
June 23 (Bloomberg) -- Former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt acquired a 50 percent stake in Global Champions Tour, a premier international show jumping series that draws top riders and horses.
McCourt in a telephone interview declined to reveal financial terms of the agreement with Tour founder Jan Tops, a four-time Olympic equestrian from the Netherlands and a team gold medalist at the 1992 Games.
“You know what happened with the Dodgers,” said McCourt, who in 2012 sold the Major League Baseball team for a record $2.15 billion to a group that includes executives from Guggenheim Partners. “We took a franchise losing almost $60 million per year and ended up selling it for the highest price ever paid for a sports franchise. We created value there and we plan to do the same thing here.”
Global Champions Tour stages 14 premier circuit events in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Longines, a unit of Swatch Group AG, Switzerland’s largest watchmaker, is the tour’s title partner.
Dale Harvey, general manager of West Palms Event Management in California, a producer of top equestrian events, said in an e-mail that McCourt is buying into what has become “the most prestigious” show jumping in the world.
This year’s tour stops include Paris, Shanghai, Antwerp, London, Doha, Cannes and Madrid. Riders will compete for more than $12 million, the most for any series in the sport.
“Working together with McCourt Global, we will innovate to bring our Tour and the sport of show jumping to new audiences, new markets and new heights,” Tops, who founded the Tour in 2006, said in a statement.
The 60-year-old McCourt said he plans to bolster the Tour’s sponsor base by expanding to undisclosed locales in the U.S. and growing its footprint in Asia and the Middle East.
“The sport is a natural in terms of reaching out to very large international companies that are looking to reach our expanding audience,” McCourt said. “There’s a lot of opportunity to introduce the sport to a multitude of fans.”
McCourt last year gave $100 million to his alma mater, Georgetown University, the largest gift in its history, to endow a new school for public policy.
The real estate developer owned the Dodgers from 2004 to 2012, when the club was sold following almost a year in bankruptcy.
“I love sports,” McCourt said, adding that show jumping should appeal to television and digital media executives. “This sport is very telegenic. There’s more we can do to bring the beauty, the difficulty, the risk, the athleticism and the excitement of the sport to fans.”
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