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Eli Manning wants his own team as private equity targets the NFL

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Eli Manning, the retired quarterback who led the underdog New York Giants to two Super Bowl victories, now wants a team of his own.

Manning’s Brand Velocity Group is hoping to take advantage of potential changes to National Football League rules that would allow private equity firms to own minority stakes of franchises. The proposals are currently being examined by a special NFL committee, Bloomberg reported in early May.

Drew Scheinman, Brand Velocity’s co-founder, said the firm is “definitely” interested in buying a stake in one of the 32 teams, noting that “NFL ownership is such a scarce asset.”

“It’ll be really interesting,” said Manning, a partner in the firm. “Valuations of NFL teams are getting so high that you’re limiting the number of people that can afford it.”

The Washington Commanders last year sold for a record $6 billion to a group led by Josh Harris, the co-founder of Apollo Global Management.

A growing number of star athletes are vying for ownership of sports franchises, eschewing simple endorsements in the hopes of capturing surging team valuations. Last year Michael Jordan sold his majority stake in the National Basketball Association’s Charlotte Hornets at a valuation of nearly $3 billion. Former baseball All-Star Alex Rodriguez is an owner of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves and the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Minnesota Lynx.

Manning already has a minority stake in a sports franchise: Gotham FC, a National Women’s Soccer League team. (The investment is not part of Brand Velocity Group). NFL quarterback Patrick Mahomes and retired soccer star Brandi Chastain also back women’s soccer squads.

League holdout

The NFL has been a holdout in allowing private equity ownership. Over 60 sports teams in North America are either backed by private equity firms or individual investors from that segment, including about two-thirds of NBA teams, according to data from PitchBook. Firms pushing into professional sports include Arctos Partners, RedBird Capital Partners and Ares Management.

Manning, 43, joined Brand Velocity Group in 2022, two years after retiring. The firm, which has $400 million of assets under management, focuses on sports and consumer brands. Manning’s first deal was acquiring a majority stake of Score Sports in 2022, a youth sports uniform company.

He has been deployed for advertising in other Brand Velocity companies, such as BBQGuys, which sells high-end backyard barbecue setups. Brand Velocity invested in BBQGuys in 2020 and is now hoping to expand it in South Florida, Scheinman said.

Manning also hosts an ESPN program with his brother Peyton, who is also a former Super Bowl-winning quarterback. The two give running commentary on “Monday Night Football” games on their show, ManningCast.

When he started in the NFL in 2004, Manning recalled that it was frowned upon for athletes to talk about investing in teams or companies. Now, he said, it’s common chatter in the locker room, with many athletes investing while they still play professionally.

“There’s a lot that will happen in the next year,” he said of private equity entering the NFL. “And hopefully that’s all for the better.” 

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Anna J. Kaiser, Bloomberg , 2024-05-20 17:30:40

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