Sports Business Journal Cover Story Details LEARFIELD’s Playbook for Success


Cover Story in Sports Business Journal Reveals LEARFIELD’s Winning Strategy

Following last week’s announcement of LEARFIELD’s recapitalization, Sports Business Journal’s Michael Smith and Brett McCormick have conducted an extensive examination of the company’s playbook for expansion. The analysis delves into LEARFIELD’s journey from its inception to becoming a leader in today’s college sports landscape. It also explores the formidable task of addressing a $1.1 billion debt and the significance of the recapitalization for the future of LEARFIELD, a key player in college athletics.

Sports Business Journal reports that the newly established arrangement, involving over 160 college properties, will infuse equity investment and introduce a fresh set of majority owners, including Clearlake Capital Group, Charlesbank Capital Partners, and funds managed by Fortress Investment Group.

The article notes, “In addition to the reduced debt, the $150 million in new equity investment will be used to strengthen the company’s financial position for growth through innovation, acquisitions, and new business ventures.” This substantial reduction in debt marks a significant turning point for LEARFIELD, fundamentally altering its prospects and outlook.

The piece includes insightful interviews with key figures, such as LEARFIELD President and CEO Cole Gahagan, CEO of C Street Advisory Group (the advisory firm retained by LEARFIELD) Jon Henes, as well as prominent Athletic Directors Mike Alford (Florida State), Joe Castiglione (Oklahoma), and Travis Goff (Kansas).

Notable quotes from the article include:

From LEARFIELD President and CEO Cole Gahagan: “What we’ve done throughout this process is continue to win, in terms of the schools we’ve renewed, in terms of our partnerships, in terms of our innovation, and in terms of doing more around NIL than any other company. So, the story is that, despite these extraordinary headwinds and despite restructuring a billion dollars of debt on a balance sheet, this company has continued to win and innovate.”

From C Street Advisory Group CEO Jon Henes (C Street is a financial advisory firm retained by LEARFIELD): “I’m not saying this lightly — and I know Learfield has retained us — but this [debt restructuring on this level] doesn’t happen. As I said, I spent 25 years as a bankruptcy lawyer. Probably did, I don’t know, 20 pre-packaged bankruptcies. … My partners at Kirkland & Ellis, who represented Learfield here, never went out with a consent offer without a staple pre-pack because it would be like, ‘Well, we have no stick. What are we telling them?’ The fact that Cole pushed that, and it got done, it’s remarkable.”

From Florida State Athletic Director Mike Alford: “We wanted to be a good partner to them and understand their financial situation. I think they would understand if I came to them with a financial situation, they would work with me on it. So [we] worked it out in the best interest of both parties.”

From Kansas Athletic Director Travis Goff: “I think it’s a credit and testament to Cole and his leadership to create this pathway. This new $150 million equity investment … we see that as providing us new opportunities in the partnership. Learfield and Kansas can invest, reinvest, newly invest in some new opportunities.


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