SBJ/August 29 - September 4, 2005/Marketingsponsorship

Former Host execs make Parallel move

Two of Host Communications’ former top executives have bought Portland-based Action Sports Media from Vulcan Capital and are moving it to Knoxville, Tenn. Dallas-based Parallel Investment Partners participated in the acquisition as majority stakeholder.

Former Host CEO Gordon Whitener and former CFO Jerry Felix will hold the same titles at Action Sports Media, which contracts with NCAA teams and conferences to manage their in-stadium media rights and licenses its Game Ops Commander scoreboard-operation system to more than 900 groups.

Whitener said he expects the company to grow beyond its 30 employees, and he said it is weighing acquisitions that would increase its range of college-related marketing services. “Really any collegiate marketing opportunity is possible, but the obvious first place for us to grow is in the multimedia rights business,” he said.

Action Sports Media is arguably the top marketer of collegiate in-venue rights, but the company’s broad plans should bring it into competition with Host Communications, Learfield Communications, Nelligan Sports Marketing and ISP Sports, whose expertise extends into marketing, radio and television rights, production and other services.

Action Sports Media is profitable, Whitener said, with more than $15 million in revenue annually. He would not discuss the profit margin.

Whitener said he and Felix met with two dozen potential investment partners before linking with Parallel, which was formed in 1999 as SKM Growth Investors and spun off from the Saunders Karp & Megrue firm in April. Its typical investment is between $5 million and $15 million in “lower-middle-market companies,” according to the company.

“[Parallel is] a good group,” said Whitener. “They have made a lot of interesting deals over time, and we picked them because they were aggressive and they certainly all had a passion for sports, and in particular for collegiate sports.”

Whitener had been at Host for a little less than two years before leaving last year. Felix had been there eight years.

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