Blue Equity Launches Sports Agency

Target: SFX Sports Group

Sponsor: Blue Equity LLC

Seller: Live Nation

Purchase Price: Undisclosed

It took a year of negotiations, but Blue Equity LLC has finally broken ground on building a new sports agency platform. The firm acquired three divisions out of Live Nation’s sports management unit SFX Sports Group, acquiring the tennis representation arm, the sports media division and the live sporting events platform. Alongside the SFX acquisitions, Blue Equity also bought out the NBA and NFL representation practice of Bill Strickland, a veteran of IMG and Proserv. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.

Private equity, as an industry, has not traditionally been active in the talent business. That being said, in the past couple of years, there have been some major investments in the space. Forstmann Little & Co., in 2004, acquired IMG—the Mark McCormack-founded group that represents the likes of Derek Jeter and Tiger Woods, while Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital are investors in Jeff Kwatinetz’s management company The Firm, which counts Robert De Niro, Ice Cube and Samuel L. Jackson among its clients.

The purchase of the Live Nation units gives the Louisville, Ky.-based Blue Equity a major player in the tennis industry, with a client list that includes Andy Roddick and Justine Henin-Hardenne, among others. The media division and live sporting events groups acquired are also big in the tennis circuit, and own the rights to the U.S. Open and French Open Tennis Championships, in addition to other events such as the AVP Beach Volleyball Tour and the Boston Marathon. The addition of Bill Strickland’s agency will also give the platform inroads into other sports, specifically the NBA and the NFL.

SFX Sports was originally part of Clear Channel Communications, which acquired SFX Entertainment in 2000. When Clear Channel spun out its live-concert unit last year (since renamed Live Nation), the SFX Entertainment group was bundled into the spinout.

Live Nation, meanwhile, has been busy honing its business plan since then, and has made new acquisitions (such as Michael Cohl’s Concert Productions and House of Blues Entertainment), and also cut assets that didn’t align with its core focus. In May, the company sold a number of its properties to Clarity Partners’ live entertainment platform BASE Entertainment, divesting Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular, Cirque du Soleil’s Delirium and other assets.

Kendra Calvert, the marketing manager at Blue Equity, told Buyouts that the firm has a history of operating in the sports space. The firm, according to its Website, played a role in orchestrating the Mike Tyson/Danny Williams fight in 2004, which on the undercard featured Laila Ali, the daughter of Muhammad Ali.

Blue Equity was founded by Jonathan Blue in 2004 to house certain investments made on behalf of his family. In addition to sports and entertainment, the firm has made investments in real estate, media, publishing and financial services. It does not operate a traditional private equity fund, according to Calvert. —K.M.