Bruin Sports Capital, the media, sports, marketing and branded lifestyle venture launched in 2015 by George Pyne has established a strategic partnership with WPP in relation to its new venture capital (VC) unit Courtside Ventures, a $35 million fund investing across early stage technology and media companies with a focus on sports.
Backed by anchor investor Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Rock Ventures, online home loans portal Quicken Loans and majority owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, and WPP, the world’s leading communication services company, Courtside Ventures will invest in technology ventures within sports and media that have the potential for broader applicability across other markets.
Courtside Ventures will leverage the expertise of its experienced team of sports, digital and marketing executives. Pyne will serve as non-executive chairman of the fund and is the founder and CEO of Bruin Sports Capital. Meanwhile, Gilbert will lend his insights as an international entrepreneur and investor in leading digital and technology startup ventures.
These experiences, combined with British multinational PR and advertising firm WPP’s collective worldwide network and global reach across industries will allow Courtside Ventures to establish steady access to innovative deals and a long term source of capital from a diversified and experienced group of investors to accelerate, expand and amplify Courtside’s investments. WPP leads the syndicate of investors backing Bruin, and an anchor investor for the $500 million the firm has raised.
In an interaction with Forbes, Pyne has indicated an interest in virtual reality and data/analytics platforms, with Courtside Ventures investing in ventures outside of the sports sphere.
Pyne commented to Forbes: “The idea is that technology is changing the way media is consumed, products are consumed, data is consumed. Sports engages consumers around their passion points in ways that other things don’t. We want to be at the forefront of that disruption and change and empower entrepreneurs trying to build disruptive technologies.”
Its partners will include Deepen Parikh, venture partner at Interplay Ventures and co-founder of NYVC Sports; Vasu Kulkarni, founder and CEO of sports analytics company Krossover and an experienced entrepreneur and investor, and Brian Hermelin, managing partner and co-founder of Rockbridge Growth Equity and Detroit Venture Partners, two investment arms within Gilbert’s portfolio of companies.
Courtside will maintain operations in Detroit and New York City. Commenting on the launch of the new fund, Pyne said,“This powerful partnership’s unparalleled pedigree in sports, marketing, and technology enables Bruin Sports Capital to be at the forefront of digital innovation. Courtside Ventures is well positioned to recognize and take advantage of the important role sports plays within the changing dynamics of today’s media landscape.”
With sport remaining a fundamental interest of many media consumers, the fund and the involvement of WPP as an investor and partnet reflects its commitment to digital and content, with sport a critical elements of this strategy. 2015 saw GroupM, a global media investment management group that is a wholly-owned subsidiary of WPP, launched ESP Properties, a commercial and creative advisor to sports and entertainment rights holders.
WPP already collaborated with a large number of premium sports organizations and properties across its operating companies, including the IOC, FIFA, UEFA, Premier League, La Liga, F1, Manchester United, City Football Group, NASCAR, NBA, PAC-12, the NFL and retired celebrity athletes. This new investment in Courtside Ventures will allow WPP to widen and deepen those relationships on behalf of its clients.
This transaction will enable Bruin to continue diversifying and expanding its portfolio of platform businesses. In 2015, Bruin acquired experiential marketing agency Engine Shop, and On Location Experiences, which recently acquired Jon Bon Jovi’s Runaway Tours, launching Bruin’s presence into the global sports and entertainment hospitality industry.
With Pyne disclosing to Forbes that the minimum net worth of an investor in Bruin Sports Capital is $5 billion, Courtside Ventures can draw in Bruin Sports as a co-investor or minority investor. Pyne opined: “We’re strategic money. With the network we bring to the table, we’ve got a global Rolodex in sports and technology. If you’re lining up a team of four-to-five people, we may be a very attractive option. What’s unique about Bruin is that our source of capital is long-term. WPP is a very long view.”