Skip to content

Private Equity Funds Are Pushing Deeper Into Pro Sports

Both in Europe and in North America, leagues are making more room for institutional investors hungry for media revenue.

Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors rebounds the ball during a game against the Orlando Magic.

Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors rebounds the ball during a game against the Orlando Magic.

Photographer: Fernando Medina/Getty Images

The sports world took a lot of hits during the pandemic—tournaments were canceled, stars were sidelined, and teams often played in empty stadiums. For buyout funds flush with cash, that looked like an opportunity.

Private equity firms spent $51 billion on sports transactions globally last year, with $22 billion in Europe alone, according to PitchBook. In North America they spent almost $3 billion buying minority stakes in sports franchises. For leagues and teams, these investments offered stable liquidity at an uncertain moment. The draw for private equity was even simpler: a rare chance at attractive deals after decades of climbing prices for franchises. “Covid showed the resilience of these businesses even when one part of the value chain—the live event—gets turned off,” says Gerry Cardinale, founder of sports-focused firm RedBird Capital Partners.