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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Disney to Sell X Games to Phoenix Suns Exec’s Firm

  • A group led by private equity firms The Najafi Companies and MSP Sports Capital will buy the X Games from Disney-owned ESPN.
  • Both firms are associated with Phoenix Suns executive Jahm Najafi.
XGames-Najafi-MSP-Capital
X Games/ESPN/Design: Alex Brooks

A year after initial reports that Disney was looking to sell, the X Games is set to change hands.

Investors led by The Najafi Companies, run by Phoenix Suns’ exec Jahm Najafi, and MSP Sports Capital have reportedly signed a letter of intent to purchase the extreme sports competition.

The X Games, taking place this weekend, has long been a property of ESPN, but the sports media giant has been looking to shed the event and possibly its broadcasting rights as it navigates a more streaming-focused world.

  • ESPN was looking to sell broadcasting rights to the X Games for around $100 million but was more likely to offload their intellectual property rights for about $50 million, The Information reported in January 2021.
  • Paid ESPN+ subscriptions grew to 17.1 million in Disney’s fiscal fourth quarter, a 66% increase from the previous year.

A Sports Private Equity Tag Team

The Najafi Companies has quietly built a large sports portfolio. Its investments include the Suns, Formula 1 team McLaren, Bundesliga’s FC Augsburg, Belgian soccer team Waasland-Beveren​​, La Liga 2 team AD Alcorcón, and MSP Sports Capital.

MSP, chaired by Najafi, agreed to invest $247 million in McLaren Racing for a 15% stake in December 2020. It also holds investments in FC Augsburg, Waasland-Beveren, AD Alcorcón, and Estoril Praia of Portugal’s Primeira Liga.

Former San Diego Padres vice chair and CEO Jeff Moorad is CEO of MSP.

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