As media companies and tech giants vie for sports audiences, investors are looking beyond traditional channels to teams and sports that, just a few years ago, were relatively unknown in the United States.
The latest deal with the fifth-ranked F1 team owned by one of France’s biggest car companies involves actor Ryan Reynolds and his investment firm Maximum Effort Investments. So are private equity firm Redbird Capital Partners and its investment partner Capital. They will buy the 24% stake in Alpine F1 Team owned by the Renault Group. Investors have paid around €200 million ($218 million) in investment, putting the team at an estimated value of around $900 million.
F1 has skyrocketed in popularity in the United States since it was sold to Liberty Media in 2017. The Netflix documentary Drive to Survive brought renewed attention to the sport and expanded to cities such as Las Vegas and Miami, resulting in a surge in attendance.
For Renault, the Alpine deal aims to increase awareness of Alpine’s electric vehicle product line. more than half Renault CEO Luca de Meo said in a news release that the deal will increase the value of the Alpine F1 brand.
Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi said in a news release that the company will invest additional money in teams looking to move up the rankings.
Alec Scheiner, head of Otoro Capital, said in an interview that the deal with Alpine has been finalized over the past 18 months. As part of the deal, he will join Alpine’s board of directors.
“They looked at us like, ‘Would they help us across all the areas that we’ve had success in in the U.S.: ticketing, hospitality, sponsorships, licensing, merchandising, content?’ I saw,” Shiner said.
Shiner, a former partner at Redbird Capital, served as vice president with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and then ran business operations for the Cleveland Browns. The deal will be the first for Otoro, which spun out of Redbird to raise money for a sports-specific contract.
Founded by Jerry Cardinale, Redbird owns stakes in Fenway Sports Group, the Yankees’ YES Network, Italian soccer team AC Milan, and the production company founded by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. In 2021, it paid $37.5 million to acquire a stake in Indian Premier League cricket team Rajasthan Royals. Last year, Indian cricket broadcasting rights were sold for record prices, cementing the league’s status as the world’s most valuable sporting asset.
Maximum Effort has also invested in Aviation Gin and Welsh football team Wrexham AFC, but has not disclosed the size of its investment. Other investors include actor Michael B. Jordan and Wrexham AFC co-owner Rob McElhenney.