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Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

Carlyle Targets Women’s Sports Audience Growth with Seattle Reign Acquisition

By meerna Jul11,2024
Carlyle Targets Women’s Sports Audience Growth with Seattle Reign Acquisition

Photo of Alex Popov from Carlyle
Alex Popov, Carlyle Group

The Carlyle Group’s belief in continued growth and increasing focus on women’s professional sports led it to partner with the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer to acquire Seattle Reign FC of the National Women’s Soccer League.

PE Center met with Carlyle’s head of private credit, Alex Popov, to discuss the deal that closed in June, the opportunities Carlyle sees for the club’s growth, and the firm’s Global Credit division’s broader focus on sports, media and technology.

Carlyle and the Sounders acquired the Reign for $58 million from OL Groupe. The deal includes 100 percent equity in the franchise. Popov will serve as the Reign’s alternate governor.

Carlyle looked at several metrics when considering an investment in an NWSL franchise: attendance, viewership, sponsors and media interest in the U.S. women’s league.

In June, the NWSL announced that the league’s current regular-season attendance had surpassed one million fans for the third consecutive year. It was the fastest NWSL campaign to reach that milestone in league history. Overall attendance was up 42 percent year-over-year.

How PE Center discussed in March, the surge in interest in NWSL has led to higher valuations, which is attracting institutional investors, including private equity firms such as Carlyle and Sixth Street. Earlier in July, Semaphore reported that Disney CEO Bob Iger and his wife, Willow Bay — dean of the USC Annenberg School — were close to buying control of Angel City FC. The investment would value the team at more than $300 million.

“There’s a fundamental need for women’s football and women’s sports,” Popov said. “With more access, more exciting fan experiences both live and on TV, the numbers are really starting to accelerate. And that’s certainly played a role in how we view this investment.”

There are also some opportunities for the Reign to grow. Popov said the team could continue to invest in the fan experience, engage with the club’s fan base and focus on the management side. The team could also invest in infrastructure for training facilities or potentially purpose-built stadiums for the games.

Since 2018, Carlyle Global Credit has invested more than $4 billion in the sports, media and entertainment sectors. The firm has made several deals in the sports sector. In 2022, Carlyle invested in Serie A soccer team Atalanta Bergamo FC and Deltatre, a sports and entertainment technology provider.

In 2021, Carlyle provided debt financing for Infront, a global sports marketing firm. “It was rooted in the belief and the notion that valuable content in media, sports and entertainment will continue to be needed and created, and the ecosystem around it will continue to grow,” Popov said.

The company values ​​more than just the size of a potential investment. It also looks at the company’s relative value in its industry. “That’s why something like the Seattle Reign investment is at the heart of what we do,” Popov added. “Because it’s a unique asset and a very valuable part of the NWSL ecosystem.”

By meerna

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