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Volume 25 No. 27
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Celtics' Grousbeck Believes There Is Still Upside In Pro Sports Team Ownership

Celtics Managing Partner Wyc Grousbeck says pro sports franchises still have upside potential despite all the growth that has already occurred -- but elsewhere in sports may be a more practical, profitable place to put your money. In between several lighthearted jabs at Knicks fans during the SBJ/SBD Dealmakers in Sports conference in N.Y., Grousbeck reflected on the irony that he could no longer afford to acquire an NBA franchise if he started fresh today. But through his venture vehicle, Causeway Media Partners, he is still placing bets in media and technology providers in sports. "At these prices, it's like Yogi Berra might say: ‘Nobody can afford these teams anymore,’” Grousbeck said. “But you can afford to invest in the supporting businesses. Everything is changing. Most sports teams are family owned, and historical in a way, and legacy, and still need to be updated, including the Celtics, and there are real business opportunities.” Causeway has backed SeatGeek, action sports over-the-top network ETN Media, FloSports and others. Unlike the Celtics, which have always been at least partly a passion project, the other investments are designed for the return. “I did the Celtics for love, and Causeway for money, for me and my limited partners, hopefully,” Grousbeck said. Of course, the Celtics are worth several times the $360M that he and partners paid in '02, mostly driven by media rights growth. He thinks there may still be growth to come in that area, and said those who can put together the financing for a team should be optimistic for the future. “The next bidders on our media rights ought to be even more highly capitalized than our current rights holders, and I’m obviously talking about Facebook and Alphabet, and so on,” he said. “They may be even more willing to pay the current rate or more.”