The NCAA opportunity

Financing college athletics


Happy Monday. Here’s what we’ve got today…

  • A look at the athletic department financing collaboration between Redbird Capital Partners and Weatherford Capital

  • Plus, Skydance and RedBird reach an agreement with Paramount Global


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Athletic departments (and private equity) prepare for a fast-changing college athletics market:

Last week marked the third anniversary of the NCAA’s removal of its ban on players earning money from their name, image, or likeliness, or NIL. The new market birthed from that decision, along with an easing of restrictions on player transfers, has sent stakeholders into a high-stakes rush to come out on top of the new-look college athletics landscape.

Athletes, particularly in football and men’s basketball, now participate in what has essentially become a free agent transfer marketplace not much different than that of their professional counterparts. Players agreeing to matriculate at a new school can receive “collective” deals in which they pocket an upfront cash payment from donors affiliated with the school. Those donors, who have begun organizing into groups known as collectives—hence the name—pool resources to finance the purchase of top talent for their team.

Opendorse, a group which tracks NIL payments, says the market is rapidly expanding: projected NIL transaction volume of nearly $1.7 billion in 2024/2025 is expected to grow more than 40 percent year-over-year as teams compete to build the best rosters.

This upheaval has opened a rare “greenfield” opportunity for private equity involvement in an area that had previously been off-limits.

One of the first efforts underway is Collegiate Athletic Solutions (CAS), a new university sports investment platform with backing from Redbird Capital Partners and Weatherford Capital (founded by former Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford).

CAS plans to provide between $50 - $200 million of capital to various college athletic departments, along with companion advisory services focused on providing “additional operational expertise across strategies that can improve competitive positioning.” According to CAS, much of that expertise is focused on optimizing approaches to ticketing, hospitality, premium events, media rights, and IP monetization.

In its launch announcement, the firm has said its primary offer will take the form of a debt-like capital structure with a revenue-share arrangement and no fixed payment schedule. CAS also notes a willingness to negotiate unique agreements that can accommodate various university legal and governance needs across both public and private institutions.

"The costs of competing are going up," said Redbird founder Gerry Cardinale, speaking earlier this year at the Sports Business Journal Collegiate Athletic Forum. "You gotta spend if you want to win … They're not going to be able to do it with just donors. Bringing in third-party capital, it's not crazy. It's a very rational thing."

The stakes couldn’t be higher for universities. With a reshuffling status quo and influx of outside money, programs that are slow to adapt risk getting caught on the wrong side of a self-perpetuating talent consolidation within the top teams (who secure the most lucrative rights deals and an ongoing ability to pay for the best recruits).

"Roster management and actually taking that [money] and investing it wisely into athletes and managing your rosters in a professional manner is going to be extremely important," Weatherford told the Wall Street Journal. "I think a lot is going to change, and nobody wants to be on the outside looking in when the carousel stops."


Skydance Media, with financing from RedBird Capital Partners, reached an agreement with Paramount Global: Skydance will pay $2.4 billion in cash to acquire National Amusements, enter into a $4.5 billion all-stock merger with Paramount, and contribute $1.5 billion of new money to the go-forward balance sheet.

Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN) agreed to acquire Grayson Mill Energy's Williston Basin business, including assets in North Dakota and Montana, for $5 billion in cash and stock from owner EnCap Investments.

• A group including HBC, owner of Saks Fifth Avenue, Amazon, and Salesforce agreed to acquire Neiman Marcus Group for $2.65 billion.

KKR agreed to buy Varsity Brands, a distributor of yearbooks and academic apparel, from Bain Capital for around $4.75 billion.

Carlyle Group is in exclusive talks to acquire Vantive, Baxter International's (NYSE: BAX) kidney care business, for more than $4 billion, per Reuters.

KKR and Francisco Partners are each considering bids to acquire Instructure (NYSE: INST), an education software provider trading at a market value of around $3.4 billion, in which Thoma Bravo holds an 83 percent stake, per Reuters.

Carlsberg agreed to acquire Britvic, a UK-based soft drinks manufacturer, for £3.3 billion.

Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) agreed to acquire Morphic Holding (Nasdaq: MORF), a biotech developing oral integrin therapies for chronic diseases, for $3.2 billion in cash.

Quest Diagnostics (NYSE: DGX) agreed to acquire LifeLabs, a provider of laboratory diagnostic services in Canada, for CAD 1.35 billion from OMERS.

Alcon (SIX/NYSE: ALC) agreed to acquire Belkin Vision, a developer of glaucoma laser treatment technology, for $81 million upfront and up to $385 million in potential milestone payments.

Avant Homes, owned by Elliott Investment Management and Berkeley DeVeer, submitted a takeover proposal for Crest Nicholson (LSE: CRST), a UK housebuilder, which was rejected by Crest's board, per Sky News.

PSG Equity invested in Corilus, a Belgian developer of medical software solutions for primary care providers.

L Catterton is preparing to sell its stake in Bateel, a Saudi Arabian gourmet food producer and restaurant chain, and has hired UBS Group to advise, per Bloomberg.

Adecco Group is considering a possible sale of its technology consulting unit Akkodis, per Bloomberg.

WakeCap acquired Crews by Core, an AI-powered project delivery platform for the construction industry.

Holcim acquired Mark Desmedt, a Belgian recycler of construction demolition materials.

Charme Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in Gruppo Animalia, an Italy-based veterinary care services provider.

GEP acquired OpusCapita, a provider of e-invoicing and procurement solutions based in Helsinki, from PSG Equity.

Broadridge Financial Solutions (NYSE: BR) acquired CompSci Resources, a provider of cloud-based software for SEC filing preparation.


Tech, Vertical SaaS, & Misc. Enterprise

Quantum Rise, a Chicago-based AI-driven automation startup, raised $15 million in seed funding from Erie Street Growth Partners.

Vida, a provider of carrier-grade AI voice agents for SMBs, raised $3 million in seed funding led by Stillmark, with participation from Trammell Venture Partners, Ten31, Timechain, and Lightning Ventures.


RedStone, a modular blockchain oracle provider, raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Arrington Capital, with participation from Kraken Ventures, White Star Capital, Spartan Group, Amber Group, SevenX Ventures, and IOSG Ventures.

Astria, a decentralized shared sequencer network startup, raised $12.5 million in new funding co-led by dba and Placeholder VC, with participation from RockawayX, Maven11, 1kx, Figment Capital, and Batu.

SendBlocks, a blockchain data management startup, raised $8.2 million in seed funding led by Castle Island Ventures, with participation from Pitango, Illuminate Financial, Laser Digital, and Starkware.

Consumer & Media

GoJoe, a social fitness app for workplaces, raised £2.4 million in seed funding led by Venrex Partners, with participation from Amrock Ventures, Hellen's Rock Ventures, and Superbet Ventures.


Myricx Bio, a UK biotech developing novel antibody-drug conjugate payloads, raised £90 million in Series A funding co-led by Novo Holdings and Abingworth, with participation from British Patient Capital, Cancer Research Horizons, Eli Lilly, Brandon Capital, and Sofinnova Partners.

Granza Bio, a therapeutic delivery platform developer, raised $7.14 million in seed funding led by Felicis and Refactor Capital, with participation from Y Combinator, Metaplanet, Zeno Ventures, Ritual Capital, Pioneer Fund, Oxford Angel Fund, and North South Ventures.

Industrials, Greentech, & Other

Aether Fuels, a sustainable fuels developer, raised $34 million in Series A funding led by AP Ventures, with participation from Chevron Technology Ventures, CDP Venture Capital, Zeon Ventures, Xora Innovation, TechEnergy Ventures, Doral Energy-Tech Ventures, Foothill Ventures, and JetBlue Ventures.

Cartken, a developer of AI-powered autonomous delivery robots, raised $10 million in new funding led by 468 Capital, with participation from Incubate Fund, LDV Partners, Vela Partners, Magna International, Mitsubishi Electric, Shell Ventures, and Volex.

alcemy, a developer of AI-powered cement decarbonization solutions, raised €9.2 million in Series A funding led by Norrsken VC, with participation from Galvanize Climate Solutions and AENU.


Norwest Capital Advisors raised $3 billion for its 11th buyout fund and $400 million for its latest mezzanine fund.

J2 Ventures raised $150 million for its second fund focused on dual-use startups with both civilian and military applications.


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