Yankee Global Enterprises (YGE), the parent company of Major League Baseball’s New York Yankees, has secured a deal for its regional Yankees Entertainment Sports (YES) Network to air encore matches featuring Italian soccer’s AC Milan after acquiring a minority stake in the Serie A team.
YGE’s share in the club, understood to be around 10%, was confirmed yesterday (August 31) as RedBird Capital Partners, the US-based private equity firm, completed its takeover of the team for €1.2 billion ($1.2 billion).
The deal sees Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner become a minority owner of RedBird as part of the agreement.
Main Street Advisors, a Los Angeles-based investment fund backed by NBA basketball star LeBron James, is also believed to have secured a minority stake in Milan.
YES Network will provide delayed coverage of Milan games from the top-flight Serie A, the Coppa Italia domestic cup competition, and the pan-European UEFA Champions League.
Its coverage will begin on September 6, with delayed coverage of Milan’s clash with local rivals Inter Milan, which is being played on Saturday (September 3).
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Earlier today, Yankees Global Enterprises entered into a partnership with historic Italian football club @acmilan.
The YES Network will air AC Milan matches beginning September 6th. pic.twitter.com/hkIZWeiL4P
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) September 1, 2022
Along with the Yankees, YES Network, and its newly acquired stake in the reigning Serie A champions, YGE also has a stake in Major League Soccer champions New York City FC (NYCFC) as part of a partnership with majority owners City Football Group (CFG).
YES already has an agreement to air delayed coverage of games involving English Premier League champions Manchester City, which is also owned by CFG. It also airs the games of the Yankees, the National Basketball Association’s Brooklyn Nets, and NYCFC.
In 2019, YGE bought back the YES Network from media giant Disney in a deal worth $3.47 billion, which was backed by strategic partner Amazon, the e-commerce giant, Sinclair Broadcast Group, the telecoms conglomerate, and investment from Blackstone, Redbird, and Mubadala, the private equity companies.
Disney was forced to sell the holding, together with other regional sports networks, as part of its deal to acquire the majority of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets.
Gerry Cardinale, the founder and managing partner of RedBird, has worked with the Yankees for decades, including during his years at global investment bank Goldman Sachs, which advised and was an early investor in the creation of the team’s regional sports channel, the YES Network.
On the partnership with YGE, he said: "We have a multi-decade relationship with the New York Yankees and the Steinbrenner family that has resulted in the creation of some of the most successful businesses in sports, entertainment, and hospitality.
“We are very pleased to continue our partnership with them and will look to explore opportunities together to broaden our fan reach and expand commercial opportunities that are only available to franchises that operate at the highest levels of sports globally."
RedBird agreed to buy Milan from US investment firm Elliott Advisors in June. As part of the deal, Elliott will retain a “minority financial interest” in the club, as well as seats on the board of directors.
Elliott had been the owner of Milan since 2018, having taken over a year after former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi relinquished control of the club.
As the new owners of the reigning Serie A champions, RedBird said it will “continue to invest in all the key areas that will advance the club's sporting and commercial interests, building on last season's achievements.”
The firm outlined that its priority areas of focus include “supporting the club's sporting and business leadership to ensure that the team is consistently competitive at the highest levels of football; ensuring that it has the infrastructure and facilities befitting one of the world's most prominent sporting organizations; and strengthening the club’s women’s and youth teams, as well as its charitable arm, Fondazione Milan.”
Cardinale said: "Our vision for Milan is clear: we will support our talented players, coaches, and staff to deliver success on the pitch and allow our fans to share in the extraordinary experiences of this historic club.
“We will look to leverage our global sports and media network, our analytics expertise, our track record in sports stadium developments and hospitality to deliver one goal – maintaining Milan’s place at the summit of European and world football."
The completion of the purchase of Milan takes RedBird's assets under management to approximately $7.5 billion and adds the Serie A heavyweights to the firm’s portfolio of global sports investments.
The company has stepped up its presence in the soccer market in recent years and notably holds a stake in English Premier League giants Liverpool after acquiring a 10% share in the team’s owners Fenway Sports Group last year for around $750 million.
RedBird also acquired French club Toulouse in 2020.
Image: Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images