SailGP, the team sailing competition founded and financially backed by Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison, has announced it has sold a minority stake to the Endeavor sports and entertainment group in a deal that values the series at $200m (€182m).
SailGP chief executive Sir Russell Coutts said today (Thursday) that that the investment “represents a pivotal moment in our young and developing history”.
Coutts added that the deal “strengthens our position going into our second season and signals the projected long-term value of SailGP”.
A statement from the sailing series and Endeavor on the future rights distribution read: “As part of the investment, SailGP will benefit from access to the Endeavor network’s expertise across content production, media rights distribution, creative services, licensing, sponsorships and consumer marketing.”
Talisman Sport and Media, the boutique media-rights agency, has worked with SailGP on the distribution of its international broadcast rights and remains in place in that role.
The investment by Endeavor will, however, increase the likelihood that Endeavor’s IMG agency could take on the distribution of SailGP’s media and sponsorship rights in the future. SailGP told SportBusiness that Talisman would be “supported by Endeavor/IMG moving forward”.
Endeavor president Mark Shapiro remarked: “SailGP is transforming the way people view sailing. For the first time, the sport is being packaged in a broadly appealing, consumable, consistent and exciting format, bringing it in line with some of the world’s top sporting events.”
Ahead of its inaugural 2019 season the series announced a raft of broadcast deals, including a three-year agreement with Fox Sports in Australia and a deal with BT Sport in the UK and Ireland. In the United States, racing aired live on social media platform Facebook alongside full access on the SailGP app.
SailGP’s current broadcast and production partner is UK-based firm Whisper Films, the two parties having signed a three-year deal in October 2018.
The six teams competing in the inaugural season were all centrally-financed and owned, allowing the series to sell sponsorship packages across teams and the competition centrally.
For its first season, SailGP succeeded in signing Rolex, Land Rover and Ellison’s software firm Oracle, as founding partners.
In an interview with SportBusiness in 2019, Coutts said a long-term ambition for the sailing series was for private investors to acquire individual teams.
The Kiwi yachtsman said: “While all of the six current SailGP teams are initially financed and owned centrally, the intention is that each team will eventually be independently owned.
“As additional teams are added in future seasons, they will be required to secure their own funding via partnerships and will not be underwritten centrally. The six initial teams will be sold to external investors once they have built their commercial profiles over a five-year period.”
The series see national team crews race identical, supercharged F50 catamarans in iconic waterfront locations, culminating in a $1m (€864,000), winner-takes-all match. SailGP starts its second season in Sydney from 28-29 February.