WME/IMG Buys Pro Bull Riders for More Than $100 Million

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WME/IMG bought the Professional Bull Riders, the world’s premier bull riding circuit, from Spire Capital Partners, expanding the company’s footprint in live events, PBR Chief Executive Officer Jim Haworth said.

He wouldn’t comment on financial terms of the agreement, which a person with direct knowledge of the agreement said is for more than $100 million.

Haworth said it was an “exciting day” for the PBR, which will benefit from WME/IMG’s global footprint and experience in live event management.

“Strategically, when you look at their ability from a content standpoint, when you see how we can grow internationally, on every front we’re really excited about it,” Haworth said in a telephone interview.

Spire, a New York-based private equity firm, bought a majority stake in the organization in 2007, taking the ownership interests of many of the retired founding riders.

Led by co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, WME/IMG represents some of Hollywood’s biggest actors, directors and writers, including Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The company said it expects the transaction to close next month.

300 Events

The PBR stages more than 300 annual events that are attended by more than three million people, said WME/IMG, which called the organization the fastest-growing sport in the U.S.

“We’ve worked closely with the PBR for the last several years and share their passion for expanding the sport globally,” Emanuel and Whitesell said in a statement. “The resources across WME/IMG make the partnership a perfect match, combining top quality event production and broadcast rights.”

Among WME/IMG’s other owned-and-operated properties are New York Fashion Week, tennis’s Miami Open and the U.S. Open of Surfing.

Evercore Partners represented PBR in the sale.

According to its website, PBR was started in 1992 when 20 riders each invested $1,000, a few of them borrowing from family and friends, turning that investment into “millions.”

Besides Spire, PBR management and 44 Cowboys had part ownership of the organization, according to the company website, which doesn’t provide a breakdown.

CBS signed an exclusive TV broadcast agreement in 2013. The PBR also has 37 international broadcast partners in 114 territories. More than 2.5 million fans attend live events each year, the PBR website says.

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