SBJ/September 10-16, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

ANC Sports buys itself back from equity firm

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Signage and venue services provider ANC Sports has bought itself back from Palladium Equity Partners, a private equity firm that purchased 85 percent of ANC in 2009.

The new ownership group of ANC, one of largest companies of its kind in sports, is headed by former NBA executive Bill Daugherty, who will hold the largest share and become ANC’s executive chairman.

Others in the investment team also have sports connections, as the group includes Jerry Cifarelli, ANC founder, president and CEO; former New Jersey Nets owner Alan Aufzien, an original ANC investor; Dave Bialek, who heads ANC Sports Marketing; and Paul Salem, senior managing director of Providence Equity Partners. However, ANC officials stressed that Salem’s investment is personal in nature and not at all tied to Providence Equity.

Terms of the deal could not be obtained, and it was unknown what Palladium paid for ANC three years ago.
Founded 15 years ago, ANC has its signage systems at more than 200 North American venues, and has expanded in recent years to provide more sales and marketing offerings.

Daugherty’s equity investment brings him full circle. The former NBA senior vice president of business development helped convince Cifarelli to launch ANC Sports Enterprises in 1997 and introduced him to former Boston Celtics owner Alan Cohen, who became ANC’s original majority owner.

“What started as a rotational signage company has grown into a venue technology company,” said Daugherty, who sold Interactive Search Holdings, an amalgam of sites including Iwon.com and excite.com, to Ask Jeeves for $343 million in 2004.

Jerry Cifarelli launched the company in 1997.
Photo by: ANC SPORTS
Daugherty now serves on two other corporate boards and is involved in mentoring high school students on entrepreneurship.

“ANC’s reputation with teams, leagues and sponsors is stellar, so I see a lot of room for growth,” added Daugherty, who went on to say that he plans to take an active role with the company. “Their technology development has been impressive, and the way they tie everything together with marketing, sales and sponsorship makes ANC a very compelling proposition.”

With a streamlined ownership group at ANC, Cifarelli sees opportunities to expand the sales, marketing and consulting sides of the business; to increase the full-time employee count from its current 60 people; to expand outside of sports, like a recently completed high-definition video marquee outside of the Caesars Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland; and to expand into other sports. Basketball and baseball venues now account for about 80 percent of ANC’s annual revenue, which is estimated at $60 million.

“The important thing now is that we have ownership with a long-term commitment and deep roots within the industry,” Cifarelli said.

Among ANC signage system deals is the massive new video screen and LED fascia signage at the Tennessee Titans’ LP Field, and the new high-def center-hung scoreboard at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, which is big enough that it extends nearly foul line to foul line.

Palladium, which owns Wise Foods, among other holdings, acquired ANC three years ago and established Celeritas Management as its sports-focused holding company, but that vision never amounted to much beyond the acquisition of the Spanish Béisbol Network.
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