RedBird Banks $4.7 Billion for Dealmaking

The sports, media and financial services investor collects fresh capital amid a flurry of high-profile deals

The Wall Street Journal
By Ted Bunker
17 May 2024

RedBird Capital Partners, Gerry Cardinale’s private-equity firm, has refreshed its dealmaking arsenal with $4.7 billion to pursue more sports, media and financial services businesses after two years studded with some high-profile transactions.

Currently, the New York firm is backing Skydance Media as it negotiates to acquire Paramount Global. RedBird recently closed the acquisition of U.K. production studio All3 Media for £1.15 billion, or roughly $1.5 billion, through a joint venture called RedBird IMI. Around the time it began raising RedBird Capital Partners Fund IV in early 2022, the firm acquired Italian soccer club AC Milan for €1.2 billion, or about $1.3 billion.

After receiving initial commitments in May 2022 for its fourth flagship vehicle, RedBird’s other deals have included investments in wealth manager and financial adviser Arax Investment Partners, in Renault Group’s Alpine F1 car racing team and in the creation of EverPass, which streams live games to bars and restaurants through the NFL Sunday Ticket network.

On the exit side, RedBird has notched returns of more than three times invested capital through sales of Compass Datacenters and professional football and baseball player marketing business OneTeam Partners, according to a person familiar with the matter.

RedBird sold Compass to a Brookfield affiliate and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan last year in a transaction that research provider PitchBook Data valued at about $5.7 billion. RedBird invested in the company in December 2016 alongside Ontario Teachers’.

The firm exited OneTeam barely three years after helping to create it with a $125 million investment in December 2019 alongside player associations for Major League Baseball and the National Football League. By late 2021, RedBird was shopping its 40% interest at around $850 million, valuing the business at more than $2 billion.

In late 2022, RedBird sold its OneTeam stake to HPS Investment Partners, Atlantic Park Strategic Capital Fund and Morgan Stanley.

RedBird has had its share of misses over the past two years as well. In March, a political storm erupted in London over an attempt by the firm’s RedBird IMI joint venture with International Media Investments, backed by Abu Dhabi royal family member Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to acquire the Telegraph newspaper and Spectator magazine. The uproar led RedBird IMI to abandon the effort.

But that development didn’t prevent the firm from closing a new RedBird IMI fund with about $1.44 billion committed to the vehicle, as part of its latest fundraising efforts. Former CNN boss Jeff Zucker leads the joint venture, which just acquired All3, as chief executive. He is also an operating partner at RedBird.

The firm declined to comment, according to a spokesman.

RedBird has also wrapped up its fourth flagship fund with more than $3.28 billion, including co-investment vehicles and parallel funds, the person familiar said Thursday. By comparison, RedBird closed its third flagship vehicle and related funds with about $2.5 billion in all.

The Skydance campaign for Paramount faces a $26 billion all-cash competing offer from Apollo Global Management and Sony’s movie-production company, which includes assuming debt, reported to be $14.6 billion. RedBird first backed Skydance, a video producer whose credits include “Top Gun: Maverick” and’s “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” TV series, in November 2019.

Skydance has been angling to acquire Shari Redstone’s stake in National Amusements, which gives her control of Paramount, initially proposing to pay as much as $2 billion, and then combining it with Paramount.

RedBird, formed about a decade ago by Cardinale, who is its managing partner and chief investment officer, now manages about $10 billion, according to its website.