Billionaire Englander Takes 8% Stake in RedBall Sports SPAC

Add another big name to the list involved in RedBall Acquisition Corp.

Billionaire hedge funder Israel “Izzy” Englander has taken an 8% stake in RedBall, the sports-focused blank check company started by investor Gerry Cardinale and baseball executive Billy Beane.

Englander’s hedge fund, Millennium International Management, owns 4.5 million shares of RedBall, according to a form 13-G filed with the SEC this evening. That equals 7.83% of RedBall, a stake worth $45.18 million based on RedBall’s closing price of $10.04 today on the New York Stock Exchange. Englander’s firm also owns 1.5 million warrants, rights that allow shareholders to purchase additional shares. In RedBall’s case, buying three shares also acquired one warrant at the offering, redeemable for $11.50 a share.

A representative for Millennium didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

Brooklyn-born Englander formed Millennium in 1989 and has built it into one of the world’s most successful hedge funds, with $45.4 billion under management.  He is personally worth about $7.2 billion from his investing prowess, according to  Forbes.

Cardinale’s RedBird Capital marries his savvy with sports transactions; the investor recently took part in buying the XFL and helped build On Location Experiences with the NFL, which was sold for $700 million this year.

One-time big leaguer Beane became widely famous after author Michael Lewis profiled his then-unique style of analytical player evaluation in the best-seller Moneyball.  RedBall finished its IPO and began trading Tuesday. Its primary goal is to find a professional sports team—likely a European soccer club—to purchase, according to its public disclosures.  

Special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, like RedBall are a near-perfect play for speculative investors like a hedge fund. That’s because buyers at the IPO have the option to turn their shares back for their cash invested, plus interest, if they don’t like the acquisition a SPAC ends up making—effectively giving them no downside. Yet Englander likely is backing RedBall for the longer haul, having recently made it known he wants investors in Millennium to commit for longer-term investments.

SPACs have been among the year’s most popular equity plays. A SPAC goes public and then looks to buy an entity that wants to go public without the time and expense of their own IPO. Since American sports leagues tend to frown on publicly traded company ownership, it’s believed RedBall will look to buy a team in Europe, which generally puts less restrictions on team ownership.