SBJ/April 9-15, 2012/In Depth

NFL puts finishing touches on VC fund

In October 2011, when news emerged that the NFL would start the first venture capital fund run by a league, the development garnered significant attention.

Six months later, the league is putting the finishing touches on the fund and hopes to begin sifting through possible investments in the next few months.

“We hope to have a couple of investments in the first 12 months,” said Neil Glat, NFL senior vice president.
Glat also disclosed that talk is occurring with the NFL Players Association, which apparently is interested in investing alongside the owners. “There is interest there if it can be done right,” Glat said.

The NFLPA did not reply for comment. As the fund now stands, the union would not share in any profits (nor in any downside) from the venture capital investing.

The league plans to hire at least two investment professionals, most likely with a background in corporate venture capital. Companies like Comcast and Adobe have their own venture capital funds that, while seeking high returns, also look to invest in startups that synergistically serve their purposes.

The NFL, similarly, wants high returns but also is looking at investing in startups that may do business with the league.
The idea of the fund is to profit from many of the side businesses that operate in the NFL orbit while also helping those companies that serve a goal of the league.

The NFL is still in the process of choosing outside investment firms to sit on an advisory board. These companies benefit, Glat said, if the league brings deals to their attention. Commissioner Roger Goodell also still needs to appoint a five-member owner committee.

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