Business: Providence Equity Partners sells SUM interest

Providence Equity Partners has sold its investment in Soccer United Marketing, MLS's media and marketing arm, which it made five years ago back to the league.

SUM was founded by MLS's owners in 2002 to buy the English-language media rights to the 2002 World Cup and bundle them with MLS rights. It expanded to handle marketing and media rights to U.S. Soccer and develop commercial deals with Concacaf and the Mexican federation, among other organizations.

Providence Equity Partners paid a reported $150 million for a 25 percent interest of SUM in 2012. The capital was used to fund strategic MLS activities as it expanded player acquisitions and its media and digital activities. Bloomberg reported that Providence tripled its initial investment made in SUM before selling it back to the league.

“By combining the most popular sport in the world with the largest media market in the world, we knew MLS had a unique opportunity,” said Jonathan Nelson, founder and CEO of Providence Equity Partners. "[MLS Commissioner] Don [Garber], his team, and the ownership group have exceeded all expectations in driving the league’s growth in teams, attendance, viewership, and sponsors -- all while investing in the quality of the game and the experience for fans. With its solid financial footing and growth trajectory continuing, we expect MLS and SUM to keep on exceeding expectations, and we wish them great success.”

SUM is privately owned, so no public financial information is available. U.S. Soccer's 990 tax returns shed some light on the growth of its SUM revenue deal. SUM, which pays U.S. Soccer a guaranteed minimum payment plus a split of revenues over that minimum for the sponsorship, television, licensing and royalty revenues it generates, paid $11.1 million in U.S. Soccer's 2012-13 fiscal year increasing to $25.2 million in 2015-16.

“We are a healthier and stronger business because of Providence’s investment,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.

Providence Equity Partners, SUM's only outside investor, manages more than $50 billion in capital. Since its inception in 1989, Providence has invested in more than 160 companies and focused on the media, communications, education and information industries.

Other sports-related investments have included college sports marketing firm Learfield Communications and World Triathlon with which it had similar success to that of SUM.
2 comments about "Business: Providence Equity Partners sells SUM interest".
  1. Paul Berry, June 21, 2017 at 8:08 p.m.

    Is this good news, bad news or no news?

  2. Paul Cox, July 26, 2017 at 7:11 p.m.

    The part that's news is that MLS has enough spare cash laying around to buy out Providence. The linked Bloomberg article says that Providence tripled their investment, so it means that MLS had an extra $450 million bucks sitting in Don Garber's sock drawer or something, which means that MLS has a hell of a lot more cash than they want anyone to think they have.

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