Rob Klein was a recent guest on the In Visible Capital podcast. They talked about RedBird Capital Partners current investment portfolio and why they purchase the XFL. Klein and host Adam Lewis also talk about the current status of the XFL, the hiring of a commissioner, and potential team owners.
First, to understand why RedBird got involved with the XFL, you must know what they do. Their mission is not just to own sports properties. RedBird wants to grow them.
“We partner with rights-holders to find businesses that are undervalued or under-monetized, and we help them build those businesses to create a company with lasting terminal value.
We are not typically team buyers where we take a stake in a team, we’re usually looking to help grow that franchise and grow that business.
What is a rights-holder? It could be a team owner, but it’s also a media rights owner. It could be concessions, food and beverage, ticketing, live events. It could be anything in that ecosystem.”
Once those businesses reach their ‘lasting terminal value,’ RedBird sells and moves on to the next project. Like they did recently with their sale of On Location Experiences, which is involved with the NFL.
“We partnered with the NFL to EBITDA from 7 to 60 million over two and a half years, ultimately sold the business at a 2.4x.”
RedBirds clearly views the XFL as something they can grow, they hardly ever make a bad business decision.
This is what Klein had to say about the XFL, Dany Garcia, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.
“We came in with Dwayne and his partner, Dany Garcia, who by the way, she is an outstanding business person too in her own right. The idea, Adam, is to create a live entertainment and global production and media company that’s rooted in live football.
This is not just us, as others have seen and said this, there is demand for spring football, for a legitimate spring football product. We think this is a year-round entertainment company with spring football at its roots.”
He goes on to talk about the delay until the 2023 season.
“We delayed it, clearly to make sure the foundations are in place. When I say foundations, we’re talking about things like media rights and distribution and sponsorship and franchises in different markets and what families or institutions may want to participate in franchises.
On a risk-adjusted basis, we don’t have a ton of capital deployed yet to it, but we have capital earmarked. That’s what success-based investing means, is, we’re going to deploy a lot more capital if we have a clear line of sight into making sure the cash flow covers whatever larger investment we make in the asset.”
Both the XFL 1.0 and 2.0 versions had only one owner, Vince McMahon. Could the XFL 3.0 include team owners being individuals or multi-million dollar investment firms? NFL rules prohibit investment firms from owning NFL franchises. This would be another aspect to make the XFL different from the NFL.
Klein goes on to say how close Gerry Cardinale, founder of RedBird Capital Partners is to this project.
“Gerry’s really close to this one. He spends a lot of time with Dwayne and Dany personally, as well as the league and our stakeholders trying to think through what the right steps are. The idea here is to go slowly so that you don’t skip steps and don’t make mistakes so that you can really create something of value.
I have to tell you, Dwayne’s social media presence is second to none on the planet. It’s going to be a global business or based in North America. I would not be surprised if you saw a global footprint coming out of this thing.“
Klien was asked how far along the league is. He stated it is early “It’s pretty much in its infancy,” and they have not picked a commissioner yet.
Klein is responsible for overseeing all operational functions of RedBird as well as its capital partnerships. He helped build RedBird from $650 million with 18 employees in 2017 to over $5 billion and 50 employees today.
The podcast is an interesting listen if you are interested in the business of sports. It sounds like the team behind the XFL is really taking their time to get it right.
RedBird Capital Partners, Dany Garcia, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson are all winners in the game of business. It would be a surprise to many if they didn’t make the XFL 3.0 era a reality.
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