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Report: X Games set to be sold to Phoenix Suns vice chairman

US investment group aims to wrap up deal for ESPN-owned action sports brand by end of Q1 2022.

24 January 2022 Ed Dixon

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  • TNC and MSP were founded by Phoenix Suns vice chairman Jahm Najafi
  • X Games first linked with sale last January
  • New owners could look to evolve X Games into heavily focused digital brand, according to Sportico

The ESPN-owned X Games is set to be sold after an investment group led by The Najafi Companies (TNC) and MSP Sports Capital signed a letter of intent to buy the action sports event franchise, according to Sportico.

Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but the transaction will reportedly close near the end of the first quarter.

Private equity fund TNC was founded by Jahm Najafi, vice chairman of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Phoenix Suns, and has a wide array of holdings across the consumer, retail, ecommerce, media and technology sectors. As well as the Suns, its sports investments include Formula One team McLaren and German top-flight soccer club FC Augsburg.

Investment fund MSP, meanwhile, was co-founded by Najafi and Jeff Moorad, a former stakeholder in Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres. MSP’s portfolio focuses on sports leagues, teams and sports-related business. Notably, the firm took a 15 per cent stake in McLaren back in December 2020 in a deal worth UK£185 million (US$250 million). The stake is set to rise to a maximum of 33 per cent by the end of this year.

Sportico reports that TNC and MSP view the X Games as a chance to acquire a ‘widely recognised brand’ that, despite faltering in recent years, can be given a new lease of life.

Should the acquisition go through, Sportico reports that X Games events are likely to initially continue being shown on ESPN and Disney’s other networks. Beyond that, its new owners could look to broadcast the games on streaming platforms as part of efforts to develop the X Games into a digital-focused brand.

The X Games, which was first held in 1995, has been up for sale for a year. According to a report published by The Information in January 2021, ESPN started to explore selling the brand as the US sports broadcasting giant continued to restructure its post-pandemic business operations.

The Information added at the time that ESPN had considered several options for the X Games, including selling the rights to show the events as part of a multi-year deal that would net it ‘around US$100 million’.

However, the report also noted that it was more likely that ESPN would settle for a deal worth somewhere in the region of US$50 million to sell the X Games’ intellectual property.

Other names linked with the X Games, which has held events across North America, Europe, South America and Asia, include the entrepreneur and investor Sahil Bloom, who revealed his vision for the brand last month.

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