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“Big 12” college athletic conference explores PE investment

The Big 12 Conference, a US college athletic conference comprising 14 universities in Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and West Virginia, is exploring potential private equity investment and the sale of its naming rights in a bid to enhance its financial standing, according to a report by The Athletic. 

The discussions, first reported by CBS Sports, indicate a strategic move to narrow the revenue gap with other power conferences.  

Allstate is reportedly the leading candidate for the naming rights sponsorship, which would potentially result in the conference being renamed the Allstate 12 Conference. 

At recent meetings in Dallas, Big 12 officials received a presentation from Luxembourg-based investment firm CVC Capital Partners. The discussions centered around a possible investment ranging from $800m to $1bn for a 15-20% stake in the conference. The investment would help the Big 12, which will become a 16-member league this summer, reduce the revenue disparity with the ACC, Big Ten and SEC. The conference’s current media rights contract, extended in 2022, remains in place.  

The Athletic’s sources describe the private equity discussions as preliminary and contingent on the approval of the conference’s board of directors. If pursued, CVC’s stake would aim to fortify the conference financially ahead of its next media rights negotiation in 2031. The investment is expected to yield long-term returns as television revenue increases under a new media deal. CVC, whose sports investments include Bruin Capital and the Women’s Tennis Association, would receive its stake as an annual distribution similar to member schools. 

The Big 12’s exploration of new revenue streams aligns with similar initiatives by individual schools and other conferences. In 2019, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott considered a $500m private equity investment, but the proposal lacked sufficient support from member schools. 

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