Jul 28, 2010 at 03:00 PM
written by

IMG to Acquire ISP Sports

As first reported by Sports Business Daily, IMG is acquiring ISP Sports in a blockbuster deal that will shake up the face of college sports.

A definitive purchase agreement has been approved and signed by the parties, though certain regulatory approvals and closing conditions must still be met. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

ISP, headquartered in Winston-Salem, NC, has the rights to Alabama, Arizona State, Auburn, Baylor, California, Duke, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Syracuse, UCLA, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Washington, among others. ISP will be combined with IMG's existing college sports group, which provides marketing, licensing and media services to universities.

"We are very pleased to add ISP Sports to IMG's college sports business," said Ted Forstmann, Chairman and CEO of IMG. "Ben Sutton and his team have built a terrific company, representing some of the most prominent names in college athletics."

"This acquisition will complement our existing college business, which is an increasingly significant part of IMG, and demonstrates our continued focus on investing in businesses that provide substantial future growth opportunities for IMG," Forstmann said. "It will also be terrific for the college sports fan as this combination provides a great opportunity for us to provide more, better and higher quality programming, as well as expanding the base of customers."

"I am very proud of the team and business we have built over nearly 20 years at ISP," said Ben C. Sutton, Jr., the founder and CEO of ISP. "We are excited about the potential for future growth as part of the incredible company Ted Forstmann and his team at IMG have developed over the past five years. This move will provide our client institutions the opportunity to expand new revenue growth platforms as they seek new and incremental funding sources to build and sustain competitive athletic programs, as well as to help fund their educational programs. In addition, it will create tremendous benefit for our sponsors by increasing competition for national sales in the college environment, and by providing them with new and enhanced services and increased efficiency."

Sutton will become President of the newly combined business with responsibility for the day-to-day operations and development of the IMG College business enterprise and Pat Battle, Senior Corporate Vice President of IMG, will assume the newly created position of Chairman of the IMG College Sports Division. Both Sutton and Battle will report to George Pyne, President of IMG's Sports and Entertainment Group.

"We couldn't be happier for Ben and his team to have this opportunity to join forces with IMG," according to Dan Guerrero, Director of Athletics at UCLA and Chair of the NCAA Men's Basketball Committee. "ISP has done a magnificent job for the Bruins, but this combination will create an even stronger team and should open more doors to potential national sponsors interested in college sports marketing."

Following the acquisition, the IMG College division will employ over 700 people in 75 offices throughout the U.S. with annual sales of over $400 million. The Division will manage certain multi-media rights for colleges and collegiate athletic conferences, which includes corporate sponsorships, radio and television programs, publishing, printing, creative design, marketing, Internet, national advertising and signage sales, and numerous lifestyle and event marketing platforms. It will also serve as the exclusive licensing agency for more than 200 collegiate properties, including the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), The Rose Bowl, the Heisman Trophy and the NCAA.

The move leaves Dallas-based, Learfield Sports, as the main competition to IMG in the college rights space. Over the past few years, IMG's aggressive entry into college sports has driven up competition for rights fees and fueled industry consolidation, beginning in 2007 with IMG's acquisition of Host Communications.