The sports-focused blank-check firm launched by Atlanta Falcons co-owner Alan Kestenbaum and Inner Circle Sports’ Rob Tilliss closed on its initial public offering and starts trading today on the Nasdaq Stock Market.
Sports Ventures Acquisition Corp. closed on a $230 million IPO, with underwriters having exercised an option to issue an extra $30 million of shares at the IPO to meet demand. The offering was said to be oversubscribed—banker lingo for strong demand—and could have sold four times as many shares, according to a person familiar with the transaction. As is the custom with most SPACs, Sports Ventures was priced at $10 a unit, which consists of one share and one-third of a warrant, the right to buy an additional share at $11.50. The units trade under the symbol AKICU. Underwriters at Deutsche Bank Securities were unavailable to comment. Kestenbaum and Tilliss declined to comment.
Kestenbaum and Tilliss formed Sports Ventures this autumn with the stated goal “to identify, acquire and grow a company or companies in the sports, media and entertainment sectors on a global basis,” according to its prospectus. The company’s business case states that the “iconic value of sports franchises” is creating more avenues to monetize fan enthusiasm, including a surge in on-demand and other video content and related growth in media rights and esports. Sports Ventures now has 24 months to acquire a company and gain approval from shareholders, or it must return the IPO capital to investors. The management team intends “to focus on teams, operators, agencies, esports and technology related businesses including those in data analytics, [software as a service], ticketing and fan engagement.”
Kestenbaum bought a minority stake in the Falcons in 2019 when Arthur Blank sold a portion of his team equity. 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 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.
Tilliss founded Inner Circle in 2002 after leading J.P. Morgan’s sports advisory group. He has led acquisitions and sales of teams in all five major North American sports leagues as well as leagues abroad. Based on initial regulatory filings of insider ownership, Kestenbaum and Tillis share ownership of the sponsor entity of the SPAC, AKICV LLC, which controls 22% of the now-public SPAC. It’s not publicly disclosed how the pair split ownership of AKICU.
The chief operating officer of the SPAC is Daniel Strauss, who is CEO of GlassBridge Enterprises, a small publicly traded company that runs SportBLX, which sells fractional ownership in sports ventures and runs the venture capital arm of Roc Nation. Joseph Ragan III will join the board of directors. He is a pulp and paper executive who previously was an executive at Ferroglobe under the leadership of Kestenbaum.
Sports Ventures is one of 40 sports-related SPACs in the market right now and one of about 300 blank check firms overall seeking targets.
(This story has been updated to correct the name of the SPAC’s sponsor entity, AKICV, not AKIVC.)