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Volume 26 No. 207
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Pac-12 Media Strategy "Validated" By Investor Bids Coming In

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said the bids coming in from potential investors have validated the conference’s media strategy. SBJ College reported last night that the conference has multiple bids at its asking price of $750M from a broad range of companies and private-equity firms. The Pac-12 is going through the process of determining whether it will take on one of these investors -- which would provide its schools with a huge influx of cash -- or continue on its current path toward the next media rights deal. The current deals with Fox and ESPN run through ‘23-24. “Given the pressures our campuses feel, we're trying to be creative and come up with ways to get them more revenue,” Scott said. “We've been going through a process where we've received expressions of interest, bids, and it's really confirmed our belief in our future value and our strategy.”

BRING SOMETHING TO THE TABLE: Scott said the conference is seeking an equity investor that has an expertise in media and tech and can be an asset when the Pac-12 negotiates its next media-rights deal. That would seem to lessen the likelihood that the conference would partner with a private-equity firm. “This whole process is really about getting ready for 2024,” Scott said. “We're the only league that's got all of our rights owned and available and coming up at the same time. We like the flexibility and we're attracted by the idea of maybe having a partner by our side that could help us prepare for a future that's got new and different business models.” The Pac-12’s CEO Group agreed last month at its spring meetings to continue with the process of fielding bids, but they are not committed to taking on a partner yet. Because this is uncharted territory for a college conference, the process is moving slowly, but the Pac-12 will work with Raine Group to evaluate the bids over the next few months. “We continue to narrow the focus,” Scott said. “I'd say we had probably more interest in the way of actual business than maybe we anticipated. … Now we're narrowing the parties we're most interested in and focusing on the strategic value a partner could bring.”

MATH CLASS: An injection of cash, paid up front, would close the revenue gap that separates the Pac-12 from the SEC and the Big Ten. The Pac-12 distributed $30M to each school in ’17-18, compared to $43M per school in the SEC and more than $50M in the Big Ten. A $750M investment distributed evenly over five years would represent $12.5M more per school. The existing $30M plus the new $12.5M would add up to $42.5M. “We haven't had a definitive time table at any stage,” Scott said. “We might determine going forward that we don't want to proceed with a deal, but we've got a lot more intel now about the marketplace and the interest and validation of our strategy and confirmation of our values.”

LEADERSHIP QUALITIES: Scott, who has been criticized for working largely at the presidential level within the conference and not giving ADs a voice, described this process as highly collaborative. Presidents, ADs and CFOs all are at the table. Oregon AD Rob Mullens backed him up. “The process has been very inclusive,” Mullens said. “It's been informative for all of us. This is a rapidly-changing landscape, and when you look at the future, the vision is that we would be unique, and we are.”