SBJ/August 15-21, 2011/Franchises

Raptor Group division sets goals for AS Roma

RaptorAccelerator will look to boost the business fortunes of the Italian soccer club AS Roma as the recently created sports and entertainment consultancy begins an operational overhaul of the franchise.

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Tom DiBenedetto is the lead investor in the AS Roma purchase group.
RaptorAccelerator is the sports and entertainment advisory division of the Raptor Group, the Boston-based financial holding company run by James Pallotta. The division, launched in June by Pallotta, is run by former HSBC Holdings banker Mark Pannes and former Madison Square Garden Sports and Boston Celtics executive Sean Barror.

Pallotta, who owns a minority stake in the Celtics, has purchased majority interest in AS Roma along with three other Boston-based investors, including Tom DiBenedetto, who owns a minority stake in the Boston Red Sox and is the lead investor in the AS Roma purchase group.

The deal is expected to close Thursday. Financial terms were not disclosed. It is the first foreign team ownership in Italy’s Serie A soccer league.

RaptorAccelerator will be responsible for increasing AS Roma’s revenue with a strategy calling for an expansion of media rights fees, an increase in global marketing and merchandising efforts, and a plan to tour outside of Italy.

“It is a distressed asset even though the brand is strong, and our role is to accelerate their business growth with respective revenue streams as opposed to increasing capital,” Barror said. “It is an investment-focused strategy.”

The soccer club plays in Stadio Olimpico in Rome and last year drew an average of 41,000 fans per game. Team revenue in 2010 reached approximately $190 million. AS Roma also owns its own local television network — an underutilized asset, according to RaptorAccelerator officials who will look to leverage it for more revenue. “We have significant plans to reinvigorate it,” Pannes said.

After the purchase deal closes, DiBenedetto will handle day-to-day operations for the franchise with RaptorAcclerator executives taking a role in restructuring the front office.

The AS Roma deal is the first sports franchise consulting assignment deal for RaptorAccelerator, whose business model calls for the company to take equity stakes in its clients to drive profit instead of creating revenue through traditional commissions and management consultant fees.

RaptorAccelerator has offices in Boston, New York and Austin, Texas, and has a total of nine employees. The company also counts Charity Partners Inc. and Security Point Media as clients. A fourth equity-stake deal is expected soon, though Barror refused to disclose specifics.

“We have a fourth one coming on line in the next few weeks and another one or two by the end of the year,” Barror said. “Our pitch is that we don’t just provide capital, we can drive the business — and we are finding it to be a fertile market.”

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