LeBron James and his longtime business partner Maverick Carter aspire to become major players in the film, television, gaming, consumer products, audio and live event industries (among others). On Thursday, four investors — RedBird Capital, Fenway Sports Group, Nike and Epic Games — agreed to “pour gasoline” on those ambitions.
For example, Mr. Carter described over the phone the sale of a “significant” minority stake in SpringHill, the company he and Mr. James founded last year. The deal values SpringHill, where Mr. Carter is chief executive and Mr. James chairman, at approximately $725 million.
“This allows us to really double and triple the funding of our own content,” said Mr. Carter, noting that this would allow SpringHill to both build a library of content and more tightly control the creative process.
He would not say how much money has been pumped into the company. SpringHill, based in Los Angeles, has 141 employees and will generate approximately $100 million in revenue over the next year, Mr. Carter said.
SpringHill’s operations include a marketing consulting firm (clients included General Motors, Sprite, and JPMorgan Chase) and a media and clothing division aimed at empowering athletes. Another division, SpringHill Entertainment, produces film and television programs. (A lapsed collaboration with Warner Bros. resulted in the big-budget sequel to the film”Space Jam: A New Legacy” during the summer. More scripted projects are coming from Universal Pictures and ABC, which is owned by the Walt Disney Company.)
Sales chatter started swirling around SpringHill this year, as a wide variety of companies and investors – hoping to capitalize on the streaming boom – were looking for media start-ups to buy. Reese Witherspoon, for example, sold her Hello Sunshine to a special acquisition company, or SPAC, backed by the Blackstone Group.
Mr. Carter and Mr. James turned down other suitors before deciding to strike a deal with the RedBird-led investor group, which was founded in 2014 by Gerry Cardinale, a former Goldman Sachs president known for building companies. A good example was his 2001 creation of the regional sports network YES, which broadcasts New York Yankees games, featuring the Steinbrenner family. RedBird, which manages approximately $5 billion in capital, is also an investor in David Ellison’s Skydance Media.
Mr. Cardinale said he was particularly pleased with SpringHill’s emphasis on empowerment.
“Sport plays a very important role in tackling societal problems,” he said in a telephone interview. “Maverick and LeBron have an incredible opportunity to take a real leadership position to move that forward.”