Big suitors line up for piece of college sports marketing firm

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A number of heavyweight players are looking to suit up and get into the college sports game, The Post has learned. Hollywood talent agencies CAA and UTA, Fox Sports, Thomas H. Lee, WPP Group, the advertising holding company, and Ares Capital Partners, the private equity powerhouse, have each submitted…

Big suitors line up for piece of college sports marketing firm

A number of heavyweight players are looking to suit up and get into the college sports game, The Post has learned.

Hollywood talent agencies CAA and UTA, Fox Sports, Thomas H. Lee, WPP Group, the advertising holding company, and Ares Capital Partners, the private equity powerhouse, have each submitted first-round bids for Learfield Communications, the sports marketing concern that owns media rights to 120 colleges and universities, sources said.

Jonathan Nelson’s Providence Equity Group is selling its majority stake in the company, which first dipped its toe into the business of college sports with its 1975 deal for the radio rights to the University of Missouri.

The company, which also represents at least eight college athletic conferences, including the Big Ten, is valued at $1.2 billion, sources said. Providence hired Moelis & Co. to find a buyer for its stake.

CAA already has a sizeable sports practice and represents sports stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo.

UTA has no existing college sports exposure but is looking to expand in that sector, sources said.

Meanwhile, Learfield said on Monday it is expanding a deal with audio streamer TuneIn and will provide live streaming of the hometown teams in multiple sports.

Providence acquired a controlling stake in Learfield in 2013 after dropping out of the bidding for IMG, which later went to WME for $2.4 billion.

Shamrock Capital also holds a major stake in Learfield.

Moelis did not return calls for comment.


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