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Volume 25 No. 90
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Learfield, IMG College Close To Merger, Reshaping College Space

Learfield and IMG College have agreed to a blockbuster merger that will combine the two marketing and media behemoths in college sports, sources say. Learfield President & CEO Greg Brown will run the merged business, which will be a 50-50 split between the two companies, sources said. The merger is expected to be finalized in the coming days, but sources say that contracts have not been signed yet and both sides are working through the final details.

The move will create the most dramatic consolidation of the fragmented collegiate industry by bringing the multimedia rights to 200 schools under one banner for the first time. Until now, a brand that wanted a truly national college sponsorship had to execute multiple contracts across different agencies because rights were splintered among six major rights holders, Learfield and IMG College being the two largest. Merging the two businesses will create the closest thing to a one-stop shop the college space has ever seen and, theoretically, make the unified company a much more effective sales engine for college sports.

Combined, Learfield and IMG College will be a company worth close to $2B, industry analysts say. Because the companies are structured similarly with significant overlap, a merger could result in millions in cost-saving cuts that could enhance the bottom line. Learfield and IMG College each employ close to 1,000 people. The two companies will continue to operate independently until the deal closes. Both companies operate under private equity ownership, and sources say negotiations to put the two businesses together have been active at the highest levels. Learfield is owned by Michael Angelakis’ Atairos Group, which acquired the company last year for $1.3B. Silver Lake Partners, run by managing partner Egon Durban, is the majority stakeholder in WME-IMG. Both Angelakis and Durban, as well as Learfield’s Brown and WME-IMG’s Patrick Whitesell, have been involved in the talks, sources said.

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