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Pyne: More deals quite possible for Bruin by end of 2020

Bruin Sports Capital founder and chief executive George Pyne

US-based sports investment group Bruin Sports Capital intends to make additional moves to burnish its portfolio by the end of this year, despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, said company founder and chief executive George Pyne.

Bruin, whose holdings include streaming technology provider Deltatre, data-driven sports marketing agency Two Circles and experiential marketing agency Engine Shop, among others, last fall received at least $600m in investment from CVC Capital Partners and The Jordan Company.

And in an interview with SportBusiness US Editor Eric Fisher, which appears today in our new Finance and Law Portal, Pyne says he expects to see deal activity in the second half of 2020 stemming in part from that new capital.

“We’ve had some discussions that are underway and were underway prior to the coronavirus and we’re hopeful those discussions can conclude this year,” Pyne said. “We’ll have to wait and see, but we hope that’s the case, and hope that there are other opportunities that present themselves as well in the back half of the year. We would have been active without the virus and I think we’ll be active after the virus.”

Bruin earlier this year negotiated a successful exit for its interest in premium hospitality outfit On Location Experiences, and considered and then called off plans to sell Deltatre.

Not surprisingly given Bruin’s interest in Deltatre and the OverTier joint venture in WPP that delivers NFL Game Pass to much of the world, Pyne sees particular upside ahead in over-the-top media delivery, and predicts further disruption to the traditional media landscape.

“With 36 million Americans out of work, how long are they going to pay those cable bills?,” Pyne said. “And are there other ways they are going to be consuming sports besides traditional media? Something definitely to watch carefully. And I think you’re going to see the importance of some sports also to investigate the OTT space with more urgency, for a variety of reasons.”

In the US, Europe, and Asia, leagues of many types are currently preparing to resume play without attending fans, or already have. But Pyne predicts less-than-full sports venues will be a core reality for the industry for quite some time, and require a fundamental reinvention of the in-person fan experience.

“It’s going to cause dislocation in the industry,” Pyne said of the empty buildings.

“There are a number of lines of business that are in and around the gameday experience, and all those lines of business are going to be affected. It doesn’t mean they’re bad lines of business. But it does mean for the next 12, 24, 36 months that they’ll be affected to some degree. And people won’t feel 100 per cent comfortable [coming to games] until there’s a vaccine, and even after that, there’s going to be some hesitancy.”

It emerged in December that Bruin was exploring a sale of Deltatre. However, the sales process was recently called off amid uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bruin acquired the media and technology company for around $160m (€146.3m) in 2016 and had targeted a sale price of over $1bn at the end of last year.

Bruin’s stake in Deltatre stands at 75 per cent with the media company’s co-founders Giampiero Rinaudo and Luca Marini retaining a 25-per-cent share after the 2016 sale (through their LMGR company). Evercore, the New York-based investment advisory firm, was working with Bruin as it mulled its sale options.

To read the full Q@A with George Pyne in the Finance and Law Portal, click here.