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Volume 20 No. 42
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3. Vivid Seats’ active dealmaking

Geoff Lester last week joined Vivid Seats after only three months at Fox Networks Group.
Photo by: JENNABETH PHOTOGRAPHY
Vivid Seats doesn’t have the name recognition or industry stature of Ticketmaster or StubHub. But the Chicago-based company, founded in 2001 and now a significant player in secondary ticketing, over the past several years has steadily amassed a sizable stable of name-brand partners. In 2017, Vivid Seats inked partnerships with ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the universities of Tennessee and Rhode Island and the Preakness Stakes. The pacts added to existing ones Vivid Seats held with entities such as Notre Dame and Duke.

A larger deal last spring saw Chicago-based private equity firm GTCR acquire a majority equity stake in Vivid Seats, with prior investor Vista Equity Partners and co-founders Jerry Bednyak and Eric Vassilatos maintaining equity positions. Terms were not disclosed, but various reports placed a $1.5 billion valuation on Vivid Seats.

The company has made a quick start in 2018 as it last week named industry veteran Geoff Lester as chief commercial officer. Lester, who will lead the company’s partnerships and business development, spent more than seven years with StubHub and was a key player in many of the company’s significant moves, including the combined primary-secondary ticket offering with the Philadelphia 76ers and a series of MLB team resale integrations. His arrival to Vivid Seats, marking a rare move of a veteran StubHub executive to a rival ticketing entity, signals more dealmaking to come.

“The ability to come and help build their brand and take them to the next level, particularly when I see them now at a big inflection point, was a big part of the allure,” said Lester, who left a job with Fox Networks Group and former colleague Danielle Maged after just three months and with their blessing to take the Vivid Seats role. “You could see us look to build a bigger consumer brand like StubHub did, but I think we would look to go about it in a different way.”

Vivid Seats (Chicago)
Partners
 SI Group portfolio of sites, including SI.com, Golf.com and Fansided.com
ESPN
 Duke, Notre Dame, Rhode Island and Tennessee athletics
FoxSports.com
Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers
UFC
WWE
Rose Bowl Stadium
Preakness Stakes
Source: SportsBusiness Journal research