RedBird Capital is nearing a deal to acquire more than 10% of Fenway Sports Group for approximately $750 million, according to individuals familiar with the matter. The deal values the owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC at more than $7 billion, according the people, who were granted anonymity because the matter is private. It would be the latest sports-related investment for RedBird, following the acquisition of Toulouse FC and the XFL, which is scheduled to relaunch in 2022.
RedBird founder Gerry Cardinale for some time has been trying to acquire a piece of Fenway, which is controlled by John Henry. Cardinale and Red Sox executive Sam Kennedy declined to comment. A SPAC, with $575 million in capital, led by Cardinale and Oakland A’s executive Billy Beane, had been in negotiations to acquire a portion of Fenway earlier this year, in a deal that would have valued the company at $8 billion. Those talks ultimately led to the private investment by RedBird. The deal will likely close in the next six weeks.
Fenway Sport Group boasts a portfolio of successful sports franchises. The Boston Red Sox have won four World Series this century and are a New England institution, drawing more than 2.9 million fans in 2019, more than 96% of its home field capacity. Liverpool, meanwhile, are the defending Premier League champions and considered one of the ‘Big 6’ teams that historically rule English soccer. Fenway also owns Roush Fenway Racing, one of the more successful auto racing teams in NASCAR, as well as the New England Sports Network. FSG also owns Fenway Park and some surrounding lots in central Boston, as well a marketing group that owns half of LeBron James’s marketing and brand rights.
Cardinale is also a stakeholder in the OneTeam Collective, along with the NFLPA and the MLBPA. It’s unclear if there would be any conflict in holding stakes in both ownership and union properties. RedBird also owns a stake of the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network, the regional broadcaster of the Red Sox rival New York Yankees. Cardinale entered that business in a 2019 deal valuing YES at $3.47 billion. Earlier this month RedBird bought a sizable minority stake in Wasserman Media Group, a sports marketing and talent agency.