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High-profile sports investor RedBird raises bulk of Fund III’s $1.7bn target

RedBird, best known in the market for its deals in the sports, leisure and hospitality sector, is currently negotiating the purchase of an 85% stake in French soccer club Toulouse.

RedBird Capital Partners, led by former Goldman Sachs executive Gerry Cardinale, collected nearly $1.2 billion for a third flagship growth-equity offering.

The fund is targeting $1.7 billion, a person with knowledge of the matter told Buyouts.

RedBird Series 2019 accounted for more than $1 billion of the total secured so far, according to Form D fundraising documents published this week. The balance went into two parallel vehicles.

Twenty-one investors committed capital to the Series 2019 fund, the Form Ds showed, while 132 investors backed the parallel pools. Disclosed limited partners include Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association, which committed $150 million, Buyouts reported.

Another LP is Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, which lists the Series 2019 fund among its partnerships. Ontario Teachers’ has a long strategic affiliation with RedBird, beginning with an anchor commitment that helped launch the New York and Dallas private equity firm in 2014.

RedBird was founded by managing partner Cardinale following a two-decade career at Goldman Sachs. Prior to leaving the firm in 2012, he was a partner and senior member of the merchant banking division’s PE business, according to RedBird’s website.

Cardinale played a key role in several Goldman Sachs’ investments, some of them sports related. They include YES Network, a top regional sports network. In 2012, Goldman Sachs and Providence Equity sold a stake in YES to News Corp at a $3 billion value, generating a return of 4.5x to 5x, PE Hub reported.

Hooked on sports

Cardinale kept this focus at RedBird, which is best known in the market for its investments in the sports, leisure and hospitality sector. Among them is YES. Last year, RedBird, Blackstone and Mubadala Capital invested in the New York Yankees’ purchase of the network from Walt Disney in a $3.5 billion deal.

Another 2019 deal backed OneTeam Partners, a company that helps athletes optimize their name, image and likeness rights. RedBird partnered with the Major League Baseball Players Association and National Football League Players Association, reportedly committing $250 million.

RedBird is also looking to buy Toulouse Football Club. In May, Cardinale and Olivier Sadran, the French soccer club’s owner, said they are exclusively negotiating the firm’s acquisition of an 85 percent interest.

RedBird also specializes in making growth investments in business and financial services, communications infrastructure, energy and energy services, industrial services, and media and entertainment. It deploys $100 million to $250 million-plus to founder- and entrepreneur-owned companies in long-term transactions that use little or no leverage.

RedBird’s most recent deal, announced in June, saw it agree to buy a more than 24 percent preferred interest in Ardent Leisure’s Main Event, a family entertainment business. Paying $80 million, RedBird has the option to later increase the stake to 51 percent.

Cardinale leads a partnership team of nine, including Nicole Musicco, who joined in January. Musicco is a former executive with Investment Management Corp of Ontario and Ontario Teachers’.

RedBird declined to comment on this story.

Action item: Check out RedBird Capital Partners’ ADV filings here.