Arlington Likes Odds On Horse Media Deal

Sponsor: Arlington Capital Partners

Target: Daily Racing Form

Price: $180 million

Seller: The Wicks Group of Companies

Financial Advisor: Seller: Credit Suisse

Arlington Capital Partners is making a big bet on horses. The Washington-based private equity firm has reportedly paid about $180 million for the company that publishes Daily Racing Form, the horse racing industry’s leading publication. Expect add-on acquisitions.

Arlington Capital bought the company, which it has renamed Sports Information Group LLC, from media buyout specialist The Wicks Group of Companies. Wicks Group, which has owned it since 2004, later folded in fantasy sports company Sports Enthusiast Media, which owned StatFox and Head2Head Sports. “Sports data is what drives our company,” said the Daily Racing Form’s CEO, Brent Diamond.

The bulk of the company’s revenues come from Daily Racing Form, published since 1894 on every day except Christmas. Even to the casual handicapper, the Daily Racing Form is required reading at the track, with thousands of data points in each issue on which horses to bet on.

The paper includes the coveted “Beyer Speed Ratings,” created by Washington Post horse racing reporter Andy Beyer, which lets bettors compare horses by providing a numeric assessment of their performances on different tracks and at different distances. It’s only after assessing the Beyer ratings that many bettors feel comfortable with their choice of horse. Diamond said his company has a long and healthy relationship with Beyer, which will continue.

Both Diamond and Arlington Capital founder Jeffrey Freed both seem keen on add-on acquisitions. “We’re going to be opportunistic with acquisitions on the breeding side as well as for the more general enthusiast,” said Freed. Acquisitions could include more fantasy sports content as well as more products and analytics added to the Daily Racing Form Web site. Diamond expects to make several acquisitions both inside and outside the horse racing media industry over the next year.

Credit Suisse led Wicks Group’s auction, giving Arlington Capital an introduction over the summer. Negotiations began in August and culminated in October. GE Commercial Finance supplied a $117.25 million credit facility for the deal.

Equity came from Arlington Capital Partners II, which has six portfolio companies and is a little less than half invested. The firm, which shares a name with one of the nation’s best known horse racing venues, Virginia’s Arlington Park, has about $1 billion in committed capital and focuses on a wide array of industries, from defense to media to education, manufacturing and health care. Portfolio companies include CMI Inc, which makes electrical components for the military; Main Line Broadcasting, which owns radio stations in mid-sized markets; and BrightStar Education Group, which buys post-secondary schools.—M.C.