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LeBron James’s media group gets backing from Nike and RedBird Capital

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Private equity firm RedBird Capital, together with Nike, Epic Games and the owners of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC, are investing in basketball star LeBron James’s SpringHill Company at a valuation of $725m.

SpringHill, a media and entertainment business, was founded by the Los Angeles Lakers player and his longtime business partner Maverick Carter. Its latest investing round is aimed at giving it the firepower to expand into ventures such as the ​​metaverse — the much-hyped concept of an immersive, virtual reality world — and broadening its appeal beyond North America to Europe and Asia.

“[RedBird] could be very helpful with us on our long-term strategy, our M&A strategy and deal flow, finding deals in companies that make sense for us to either partner with or buy,” said Carter, SpringHill’s chief executive.

SpringHill is projecting revenues of $100m for its next four quarters, up from $60m in 2020. Carter said the company wanted to expand beyond its operations in the US and Canada to the UK, Europe and Japan by partnering with “companies and brands that have the same ethos and believe in what we believe in, when it comes to culture and empowerment”.

The company operates the entertainment platform Uninterrupted, which produces films, podcasts and other media to tell the stories of athletes beyond the court. Recent subjects have included Naomi Osaka and Muhammad Ali, both known for their advocacy of social issues.

Gerry Cardinale, founder and managing partner of RedBird, said the investment in SpringHill was an investment in the converging worlds of sports and culture.

“It’s not about bringing politics into sports. It’s about culture and empowerment. And what these guys are doing is they are giving voice to under-represented diverse groups in society,” he said.

He pointed out that “only 5 per cent of the marketing industry spend that’s out there is invested in diverse business owners, and those diverse business owners represent 40 per cent of the US population. That’s a fail.”

The investment was led by Main Street Advisors. Carter and James, the chair of SpringHill, will remain controlling shareholders.

Many of the investors are already partners in other projects. RedBird, James and Carter are minority shareholders in Fenway Sports Group, the ownership vehicle behind the Red Sox and Liverpool. James, who is entering his 19th season in the NBA, has endorsed Nike throughout his career, and the sportswear group’s chief operating officer Andy Campion will take a board seat at SpringHill.

The company’s focus will remain in media and consumer products, while working closely with athletes across the globe who want to build their brand and business beyond sports.

“I’ve always loved that moment of cracking the shell of the athlete having that experience and what they care about, what they’re passionate about outside of sport comes spilling out, and it almost always does,” Carter said.

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