SBJ/June 8 - 14, 1998/No Topic Name

Merger creates sports IPO force

The Cleveland Indians Baseball Co. initial public offering may turn out to be only the second most important sports IPO event of the past week.

BankBoston Corp.'s deal to buy California investment bank Robertson Stephens could become as significant as the Tribe hitting Wall Street.

BankBoston owns a stake in GamePlan LP, the sports-investment bank founded in 1995 by former New England Patriots wide receiver Randy Vataha and Robert Caporale. The two were scheduled to meet with Robertson Stephens officials last week about trying to build a powerhouse in sports IPOs.

Last year, Robertson Stephens ranked 15th among investment banks in managing IPOs. The investment bank specializes in taking technology companies public.

Caporale wants to make sure Robertson Stephens extends its reach beyond technology companies to sports. With many sports teams considering issuing stock, underwriting their offerings could become a lucrative business.

"It is a natural evolution that you have seen banks all across the country acquiring investment banks that have [stock] underwriting capabilities, and it is logical that they go from sports lending to stock underwriting," said Caporale.

There are now no sports IPO firms per se. The smattering of sports IPOs have been managed by either regional firms — Cleveland-based McDonald & Co. underwrote the Indians IPO — or by a firm with a long-standing relationship with the team.

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