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Published November 10, 2003
After helping Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder in a debt restructuring billed as the largest in the domestic sports market last year, all Elliott McCabe could do for an encore was help Snyder sell one-fifth of the NFL franchise while pushing its value over the billion-dollar mark.
McCabe, managing director of the sports finance and advisory group at Banc of America Securities LLC, has become a blue-chip banker in NFL circles. In addition to handling Snyder's financial strategy, McCabe leads the way on Banc of America's leaguewide, $1.6 billion stadium fund.
The Redskins, though, took center stage this year. McCabe and Snyder worked together on a deal that brought Federal Express Corp. founder Fred Smith, insurance mogul Robert Rothman and real estate executive Dwight Schar in as franchise partners. The three men paid a combined $225 million to join Snyder, who remains the principal owner.
The deal closed in August, winning unanimous approval from the NFL's financing committee. The Redskins and FedEx Field, the team's stadium, were valued at up to $1.5 billion by Banc of America as part of the minority-share sale.
McCabe's role involved valuation of the franchise as well as targeting and negotiating with prospective investors, structuring the financial terms, ensuring the deal met league policies and would win approval, and advising Snyder and the Redskins on the overall debt refinancing.
Paired with last year's Redskins recapitalization, McCabe has worked with Snyder on two blockbuster deals in a row. Contrary to public perception, McCabe says, the Redskins' young owner is an ideal client.
The partnership has been valuable for both men. Snyder bought the Redskins in 1999 for $800 million. At the time, the Redskins, despite enormous popularity, didn't rank among the league's top revenue producers. Now the franchise is a cash cow, generating more than $200 million a year.
At the same time, McCabe has worked with Snyder constantly to improve the team's debt structure and develop creative ways to improve Washington's portfolio.
"Elliott is among the best in the business," Snyder said. "He is a diligent, professional investment banker with extremely good communication and analytical skills."
The strong partnership with Snyder stems from mutual trust. McCabe says sports work is no different than any other form of investment banking: Build solid relationships, be creative and success will follow.
"I've spent a lot of time over the years educating myself about our sector," he said. "That means I can be proactive; I can take deals to people. We're not just reacting."
A former walk-on football player at North Carolina State, McCabe started his career at Wachovia Bank before moving to BofA predecessor NCNB Corp. Two years after his arrival, McCabe joined Jim Nash as a founder in a fledgling division dedicated to sports finance. Nash and McCabe have worked together ever since.
Starting with early clients such as the then-expansion Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, McCabe helped build a soaring franchise in the sports-finance world. The focus has expanded beyond simple loans for buying teams and building stadiums.
Now the practice provides consulting services, franchise valuation and often helps put buyers and sellers together for various teams. The sports group structures debt through syndicated loans, asset-backed loans, private equity and more.
During the past 18 months, McCabe's group has arranged more than $4 billion worth of capital for a variety of projects.
McCabe points to the NFL stadium fund as evidence of how sports-finance work has evolved. It has been funded, of late, through long-term private placement totaling $635 million over the past two-plus years.
"That's one of the things I'm most proud of," McCabe said. "It shows that we have been pioneers helping this industry grow. That's a very good feeling."
Erik Spanberg writes for The Business Journal in Charlotte.