Colin Neville, a partner at investment bank The Raine Group, told the Sports Matters conference in Singapore this week that the company’s long-term ambitions in the region include backing the development of home-grown sports talent and properties.
The New York-based Raine Group is opening an office in Singapore early next year as it seeks to tap opportunities in Southeast Asia. Reuters reported last week that the firm will hire Morgan Stanley’s Singapore-based head of Southeast Asia M&A, Jonathan Pflug, to lead the office. Deborah Yupin Mei, the head of Raine’s Asia business, has recently moved to Singapore from Shanghai.
“With a lot of capital flow that we’ve seen moving south and into Southeast Asia, we think it’s an opportune time to plant our flag and have some people on the ground here,” Neville told Sports Matters.
The executive said Raine saw opportunities in sport in the region on several levels.
In the short term, he said, there were opportunities in the large, growing, young and mobile-first population that are “massive consumers of sports content and merch”.
Medium-term, the region will continue to be a “hub for huge international events” like this week’s Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix, he said.
Long term, “growing local talent is critical to the competition. Here, relative to Europe and the West, is behind…Once you’re able to grow local talent, [with] academies on the ground, find your next Yao Ming [the Chinese NBA legend], I think you’ll start to see a lot of these leagues take off…We’re excited about the growth, we think there’s huge opportunity, and it’s just a matter of time.”
One of the bets Raine has placed in the region is an investment in nascent pan-regional basketball club competition the East Asian Super League. The inaugural season of the EASL was set to tip off next next month, with teams competing from Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan. Teams from China and Hong Kong are to join in the next couple of years. This week, the league announced that the first season’s format will be constrained by ongoing pandemic measures in the region, with the full, home-and-away match format pushed back to next season, 2023-24.
Raine is not just focused on sport in Southeast Asia. The company’s co-founder Joe Ravitch told Reuters that it is interested in the region’s media and technology sectors more broadly.
“This is the last major market in the world, where you can see a free for all between Alibaba, Tencent, Bytedance on one hand, and the likes of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Netflix on the other,” he said.
Raine advised Singapore-based ride-hailing app Grab on its purchase of Uber’s regional business in 2018.
Mei, the company’s Asia head, told Reuters that Raine would add five to seven bankers in Singapore in the next one to two years.
In Asia, Raine also currently has offices in Hong Kong, Mumbai and Shanghai.