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ESPN sells X Games controlling stake to MSP Sports Capital

MSP to control daily business operations as Disney-owned sports network remains broadcaster.

27 October 2022 Josh Sim

Getty Images

  • MSP’s investment portfolio includes 15% stake in McLaren F1 constructor
  • Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk joins X Games investor group as brand steward

Disney-owned network ESPN has sold a majority stake in the X Games to private equity firm MSP Sports Capital.

While the with financial terms for the deal have not been disclosed, New York-based firm MSP will control the X Games’ daily business operations, while ESPN Productions will keep a minority, non-controlling stake in the newly spun off business. As part of a new multi-year agreement, ESPN will continue to serve as the action sports event’s broadcast partner.

The first X Games event under the new leadership will be X Games Aspen held next January, which will be broadcast on both ESPN and ABC.

Last year, it was reported that ESPN were exploring the possibility of selling off the X Games franchise, with a price of US$50 million touted at the time. A subsequent report earlier this year then revealed that MSP and The Najafi Companies (TNC) were set to acquire the franchise, having signed a letter of intent.

“We’re proud of what we’ve created with our employees and the athletes over nearly 30 years of world-class X Games events and content,” said Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN chairman.

“We now look forward to an exciting next chapter with MSP Sports Capital, which has a proven track record of excellence in sports and a dynamic vision for the continued growth and progression of the industry-leading action sports brand.”

Investment fund MSP was co-founded by Phoenix Suns vice chairman Jahm Najafi, who also owns TNC, and Jeff Moorad, a former stakeholder in Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Arizona Diamondbacks. Its portfolio is centred around sports leagues, teams and sports-related businesses.

In 2020, MSP took a 15 per cent stake in Formula One constructor McLaren, in an investment deal worth UK£185 million (US$247 million). The stake is currently set to rise to a maximum of 33 per cent by the end of this year.

In a statement, MSP said it will aim to inject ‘new energy to the brand, prioritising premiere athlete and fan experiences, and investing in technologies to launch the brand into the future.’

With the deal completed, MSP has hired Steven Flisler as the X Games’ chief executive. Flisler most recently served as the vice-president of original content at Twitch and executive producer of Twitch Rivals, an esports competition series created in 2018 and hosted on the Amazon-owned streaming platform.

Ten-time X Games gold medalist and skateboarding legend Tony Hawk will be joining the X Games consortium as a brand steward.

“Skateboarding is part of my DNA and I support a community where change and advances in action sports is happening on a daily basis,” said Hawk.

“Being part of the advisory board for X Games is an extension of my decades of competing and much more forgiving to the body, and I look forward to being constantly inspired by so many incredible athletes.”

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