Base Soccer chief backs CAA takeover to boost client offering

Base Soccer Agency chairman Leon Angel believes CAA Sports’ takeover of the London-headquartered business will provide the company with the resources it needs to support its development plans.

The acquisition of Base Soccer by CAA Sports, a division of entertainment and sports agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA), was confirmed yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon. The deal is an effective 100% acquisition, giving CAA Sports complete control.

However, further acquisitions are not in the pipeline – for the time being at least, according to CAA Sports’ Matthew O’Donohoe.

“I’ve been here eight years and I don’t think there has been a two-month period when we haven’t been approached by someone exploring the opportunity of selling their business,” O’Donohoe told SportBusiness.com today (Wednesday).

“However, over that time we have completed four acquisitions in the international sports business. Our eyes and ears are always open to opportunities, but the cultural fit has to be right, and we’re not in a rush to buy everything.”

Base Soccer, which was established by Angel in 1997, has 60 employees in London and consultant offices throughout Europe, South America, Australia, Asia, and North America. The agency’s clients include English Premier League footballers Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Ashley Young and James Maddison.

“In the past it hasn’t been the right time for this sort of acquisition, but now we feel it is as our international businesses are doing well and we have good stability,” O’Donohoe added.

“Base Soccer has always been on our radar and we had an existing relationship with them, which probably gave us an advantage. They don’t want to stand still and they wouldn’t have sold the business had they not thought we would support their development.

“We started spending a lot of time together between six and nine months ago and the [takeover] talks came out of that.”

In its most recent annual report released in April this year, covering the 12 months through to February 25, 2018, Base Soccer outlined plans to expand in Eastern Europe and consolidate its operations in Australia.

Angel said following confirmation of CAA Sports’ takeover: “Base’s reputation as a leading agency has been built on its ability to deliver the best deals for our clients whilst always maintaining trust and integrity. We feel that with the extra resources at our disposal we will be able to deliver more for our clients together with CAA Sports.”

At a time of some uncertainty in the wider athlete representation sector, with IMG’s parent company Endeavor planning an IPO later this year, CAA Sports’ drive for growth has been well-documented.

The agency – which now encompasses 19 divisions, including property sales, brand consulting, licensing, and media rights – has expanded aggressively into Europe in recent years through a series of acquisitions, including that of London-based sports marketing agency brand Rapport in 2016.

CAA was ranked at number one by business magazine Forbes in its list of the world’s most valuable sports agencies in 2018, with reported commissions of $348.8m (€308.7m) and 1,550 contract years, around double the figures allocated to second-placed Wasserman.

CAA Sports said in a statement that its on-field contract value under management of more than $9.3bn is above all other agencies.

In football, CAA Sports – which has a long-standing partnership with Polaris Sports, the Gestifute agency’s commercial arm – jointly represents the marketing rights of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jose Mourinho, James Rodriguez, Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix, Dele Alli, and Renato Sanches.

Meanwhile, Angel and Base Soccer’s managing director, Frank Trimboli, are set to stay at the helm of the business following the takeover.

CAA Sports co-head Michael Levine said: “Frank, Leon, and their team work collaboratively, providing best-in-class service to their clients worldwide, and we are confident they will play an integral role in the continued global growth of CAA Sports.”

Financial details of the acquisition have not been disclosed. Base Soccer’s turnover increased by nearly £3m year-on-year to £12.9m in the 12 months through to the end of February 2018, generating an operating profit of £2.9m, up from £1.9m the previous year. Total equity on the balance sheet improved from £5.2m to £7.6m.