A new blank-check company from Atlanta Falcons co-owner and StelCo CEO Alan Kestenbaum and two partners of Inner Circle Sports is coming to market.
The parties filed the paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission this morning for Sports Ventures Acquisition a special purpose acquisition company seeking to raise $200 million in an IPO. The company will then look to acquire a business “in the sports, media and entertainment sectors, including traditional and emerging sports as well as film and television production and infrastructure,” according to its prospectus.
The company says it is open to a series of sports-related investments, including U.S. sports teams, European soccer clubs as well as cricket, rugby and esports squads. The blank-check firm also listed intellectual property-driven businesses around ticketing or analytics as on their radar, plus media rights and regional sports networks.
Kestenbaum is probably best known as a limited partner of the NFL’s Falcons, having bought into the franchise when Arthur Blank sold a portion of his equity in 2019. The executive has spent his career as a public CEO, and currently serves that role for StelCo Holdings, one of Canada’s largest steel producers and a company he took public. Kestenbaum has also been the chief executive of publicly traded Ferroglobe, one of the world’s largest producers of silicon metal, used to supply products such as solar panels and aluminum. His experience includes running private equity companies and expanding existing businesses into then-frontier markets such as China and the former Soviet Union. Earlier in his career, the native New Yorker was a trader at famed commodities houses Glencore and Philipp Brothers.
Inner Circle Sports is a boutique bank focused on the global sports industry and has advised on more than $10 billion of sport-related financing and mergers and acquisitions deals, including assisting Kestenbaum in acquiring his stake of the Falcons. The firm also represented John Sherman in his purchase of the Kansas City Royals and advised venture funding rounds for athlete engagement platform Teamworks, among dozens of other transactions.
Rob Tilliss founded Inner Circle in 2002 after leading J.P. Morgan’s sports advisory group. Tilliss has led acquisitions and sales of teams in all five major North American sports leagues as well as leagues abroad. He has also performed valuation activities and worked on arena and stadium financing through Inner Circle. The firm has worked with the NFL, NCAA, NASCAR and the U.S. Tennis Association, among other groups, in such areas as marketing, media, technology and finance. Tilliss is president and CFO, Kestenbaum is chairman of the SPAC. Daniel Strauss is the third listed executive. He is part of SportBLX, which sells sports-related equity offerings in horses and athlete ventures.
Blank-check companies sell shares at the IPO and then seek to merge with a private company that wishes to go public without the time, expense and disclosure of a formal IPO. That means investors are largely taking a leap of faith in the executives’ experience and connections to make a deal happen within the two-year window they are given. If a SPAC fails to make a deal within two years, the initial capital raised at the IPO is returned to investors.
AKICV joins a number of other sports-focused and sports business-led SPACs coming to market, including Gerry Cardinale’s and Billy Beane’s RedBall, Sports Entertainment (launched by several executives with NFL experience) and Robert Striar’s and Baron Davis’ Bull Horn.