Providence Equity Said to Explore Sale of Learfield

  • Learfield represents 120 U.S. college sports programs
  • Providence acquired Learfield three years ago from Shamrock

Providence Equity Partners, which acquired a controlling interest in Learfield Communications Inc. three years ago, is exploring a sale of the company that buys and sells media and marketing rights for 120 college programs, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Providence is working with Moelis & Co. to find a buyer for Learfield, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. The company, which helps athletic departments negotiate sponsorship and licensing deals, could fetch as much as $1 billion in a sale, the people said.

Spokesmen for Moelis and Providence declined to comment. A spokesman for Learfield didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Plano, Texas-based Learfield’s clients include a number of big-time universities and conferences, including University of Alabama, Northwestern University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Oklahoma and Texas A&M, as well as the Big Ten.

WME/IMG, through its Collegiate Licensing Company, is among the companies that typically bid for college sports rights.

A sale would come as schools are increasingly demanding more money from the companies that broker their media rights and the profits for middlemen are shrinking. A handful of Learfield’s contracts expire in the next five years, including Oregon State, Mississippi State, Kansas State, University of Louisville, University of North Carolina and Northwestern.

Providence acquired the majority ownership stake in Learfield from Shamrock Capital Advisors in 2013. Moelis also represented Learfield in that sale.

Learfield was founded in 1972. It entered college sports in 1975 as distributor of Missouri’s radio broadcasts.

(Corrects to reflect that University of Oregon is not represented by Learfield.)
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