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H.I.G.-owned Lagardère Sports restructures leadership team for new era

The Lagardère Sports and Entertainment agency has released details of its new organisational structure following its takeover by H.I.G. Europe, an arm of the international private equity and asset management firm.

A four-person executive committee has been named along with a “global leadership team” as the agency prepares to announce its rebrand later this week.

The executive committee includes chief executive Stefan Felsing (pictured), the experienced sports marketing executive who has returned to the agency, chief operating officer Philipp Hasenbein, the long-time head of Lagardère Sports Germany, plus Robert Müller von Vultejus, another Lagardère Sports veteran who now takes up the newly-created position of chief growth officer.

Christian Peters, an expert in mergers and acquisitions, post-merger integrations and financing, has joined the agency as chief financial officer and completes the quartet on the committee. Incumbent CFO Raphael Lombard is to leave at the end of May.

As part of the restructuring of the media rights activities, David White, previously president of media at Lagardère Sports and Entertainment, is to leave the company but will “continue to support the agency in the coming months”.

H.I.G.’s acquisition of a 75.1-per-cent stake in the agency, previously one of the sports industry’s heavyweight players, valued the company at just €110m ($120.6m). France-based media conglomerate Lagardère opted to sell a majority stake in its sports operation, along with media assets, in order to focus on its Publishing and Travel Retail divisions.

On the new leadership structure, Lagardère Sports and Entertainment said: “The [Executive] Committee will lead the agency together with the global leadership team with a focus on operational excellence at scale and global growth areas. Within this structure, the global sports marketing agency will leverage its local expertise and long-standing relationships in each continent and country in order to fuel continuous growth and innovation on a global level.”

The regions within the global leadership team will be led by Joel Segal (president, Americas), Idriss Akki (president, Africa), Adrian Staiti (president, global sales and head of Asia-Pacific operations) and Hasenbein, who will lead the European region.

Within Europe, the core markets will remain France, Germany and the UK. The French and UK operations will continue to be led by Laurent Moretti and Carl Woodman, respectively and a new management team will soon be announced in Germany. The markets of Denmark, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain are “of further additional market relevance in Europe”, the agency said.

Further detailing the structure, Lagardère Sports and Entertainment added: “Müller von Vultejuis will be overseeing Global Sales, Media, Olympics and Esports. These units are subsequently led by Michael Bushell (president Olympics) and Nikolaus von Doetinchem (president media) whilst Adrian Staiti (president global sales) and Stephen Marsden (president global sales and Olympic partnerships) lead the company’s unrivalled and unique global sales network, one of the agency’s main growth catalysts.

“Sales activities in Europe will furthermore be enhanced by the appointment of Carl Woodman as executive vice president sales EMEA [Europe, Middle East and Africa].”

Felsing remarked: “This structural change builds up on our existing core strengths as a truly global company and enables us to accelerate to full speed in terms of smarter, faster and more efficient decision making. It is our ambition to deliver the best value possible towards our clients and partners at all times.

“We are setting ourselves up for global integration, operational excellence and growth whilst leveraging our specific area and market expertise as foundation of this new way forward. And above all the defined key responsibilities and dedicated business areas within the global leadership team.”

The appointment of Felsing as chief executive represents the second time that he has returned to the company. He exited his position as Lagardère Sports’ executive vice-president of media, global sales and acquisitions at the start of 2018 as he formed his own consultancy. He was retained at the time to work on certain projects for Lagardère Sports (through his consultancy).

He was previously co-managing director at the Hamburg-based UFA Sports agency, which was acquired by Lagardère in 2015 (and renamed U! Sports). Later that year, he was given a leading role in Lagardère Sports’ international media rights trading operation.

Felsing was also a prominent member of Sportfive’s media-rights sales team before leaving in 2008 to set up UFA Sports with Müller von Vultejus and fellow former Sportfive executive Philip Cordes.

Following the sale, the Lagardère group has retained a 24.9-per-cent stake in its erstwhile sports marketing operation.

In 2006, Lagardère acquired the Sportfive agency, then a powerhouse in European media and sponsorship rights sales, for an enterprise value of €865m.

Lagardère went on to acquire the IEC in Sports and World Sport Group agencies in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Sportfive, IEC and World Sport Group were subsequently housed under the ‘Lagardère Sports’ name in a rebranding exercise undertaken in 2015.

Speaking in December last year, Lagardère said that it intended to retain its entire interest in Lagardère Live Entertainment, the producer of music shows and live entertainment in France that has until now fallen under the Lagardère Sports and Entertainment umbrella. Lagardère Live Entertainment is valued at just over €40m.

It was announced at the end of February that the erstwhile Lagardère Sports and Entertainment division generated revenues of €523m in 2019 and recurring Ebit of €66m.

H.I.G. is based in Miami and has US offices in New York, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Atlanta. It also has international affiliate offices in London, Hamburg, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Bogota, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.