Sportradar garnered headlines last July when rumors swirled that the global sports betting data provider was contemplating a move into public markets.
At the time, a deal seemed imminent, as some Wall Street insiders expected Sportradar to go public by the start of the NFL season. After months of inactivity, Sportradar remained a privately held company in early February when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shocked the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. Then, out of nowhere, reports resurfaced last week that Sportradar engaged in discussions with several special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) on a potential reverse merger.
Sportradar discussed deals in the range of $10-$12 billion, according to Sportico, which first reported the news. A $10 billion valuation represents a 25% increase from last summer when Sportradar was valued at $8 billion, Sportico reported. By comparison, DraftKings was valued at $3.3 billion when a tri-merger with SBTech and Diamond Eagle Acquisition Corp. (DEAC), a SPAC led by former media executive Jeff Sagansky and founding investor Harry Sloan, closed in December 2019. Meanwhile, Genius Sports, Sportradar’s arch rival, received a $1.5 billion valuation when it announced a SPAC merger deal with dMY Technology Group Inc. II last December.
For now, Sportradar appears to be considering a SPAC deal, as well as a traditional IPO, simultaneously. A SPAC transaction involving the company would likely be one of the largest of 2021, as financial publication Valuewalk described Sportradar as “the most unknown yet important” potential SPAC deal over the last 12 months. Yet, some within financial industry circles still question aloud whether the window on a deal has closed.
A Sportradar spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Red-hot SPAC market
As news of Sportradar’s public-market intentions circulate, a number of sports luminaries have joined the SPAC party. On Tuesday, Slam Corp., a SPAC led by former pro baseball player Alex Rodriguez, priced a $500 million IPO by offering 50 million units at $10 a share. Rodriguez, who won a World Series in 2009 with the New York Yankees, said Tuesday that he is determined to “build the Yankees of SPACs.”
It came weeks after Arctos Sports Partners, a SPAC represented by, among others, former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment executive Tomago Collins, and Meredith McPherron, CEO of Drive by DraftKings, filed for a $275 million IPO. The SPAC has sought to align with a business that includes sports leagues, teams, data and technology, and betting, checking several boxes within Sportradar’s business model.
I’m proud to share that our SPAC (special purpose acquisition company), #SlamCorp, began trading publicly today on NASDAQ under the ticker symbol #SLAMU. It has been an exciting journey to bring Slam Corp to market. pic.twitter.com/PXemyMfND9
— Alex Rodriguez (@AROD) February 23, 2021
Then, on Feb. 23, a group led by former MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren filed for a $250 million SPAC, Acies Acquisition II, weeks after announcing another SPAC deal with gaming-developer Playstudios. Notably, the team also includes Zach Leonsis, senior vice president of strategic initiatives for Monumental Sports & Entertainment (MSE), and Curtis Polk, a financial advisor for Michael Jordan. In 2015, Jordan, Mark Cuban, and Ted Leonsis took part in a $44 million investment round in Sportradar, enticed by the expanding market for global sports data and the future prospects of U.S. legal sports betting. Leonsis is the CEO of Monumental Sports, the owner of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals.
As of Feb. 25, 166 SPACs had filed for IPOs in 2021, according to SPACInsider.com, while another 175 are searching for a target. Consequently, SPAC activity is poised to shatter a record year in 2020 when nearly 250 SPACs went public at an average IPO size of $334.8 million.
“Since there are so many SPACs vying for a limited number of targets, valuations will come in rich, so Sportradar’s rumored 11-figure valuation doesn’t surprise me,” Roundhill Investments VP Mario Stefanidis told Sports Handle.
Stefanidis is not making any recommendations to buy or sell certain securities in the sports gambling space. Roundhill launched a sports betting and iGaming ETF (BETZ) last June.
With Sportradar’s $10 billion valuation, SPACs that generate under $750 million in capital from their IPO may face an uphill battle in completing a reverse merger with the data provider. Still, a smaller SPAC could remain in the picture if Sportradar raises an additional $2 billion from institutional investors through a transaction known as a Private Investment in Public Equity (PIPE). Sportradar was valued at approximately $2.4 billion when a prominent institutional investor, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), acquired a stake in the company, along with growth equity firm TCV, in 2018.
Data providers such as Sportradar and London-based Genius Sports are among a select group of tech companies that provide global sportsbooks with live data feeds that help facilitate in-game betting. Sportradar uses proprietary algorithms to help sportsbooks create and manage their own in-game lines. The data is widely viewed as the fuel that powers a book’s in-game engine.
Due to the fast-paced nature of in-game betting, sportsbooks with the slightest lags in updating real-time odds are at a disadvantage. When Patrick Mahomes suffered a game-ending concussion in the AFC Playoffs against the Browns, the in-game line moved accordingly. Sportsbooks that failed to adjust their odds rapidly enabled customers to capitalize on a favorable spread for the Browns. The books rely on live odds supplied by companies such as Sportradar, which employs data scouts inside the venue. The system allows sports betting operators to instantly update in-game odds, preventing bettors from frontrunning the book.
🗣 “If you're not a digital first organisation in this new world, I think you’re really going to fall behind.”
— Sportradar (@Sportradar) February 23, 2021
The data providers not only have commercial agreements with hundreds of global sportsbooks, they maintain exclusive official data partnerships with scores of top professional sports leagues worldwide. While the sheer number of data scouts appears to be limited during the global pandemic, all signs point to their return to venues once an effective COVID-19 vaccine has been widely used.
“The hurdle is they need physical scouts to cover events burdening the margins on top of data rights,” a portfolio manager for pure iGaming and Gaming fund told Sports Handle.
The portfolio manager, who has more than 19,000 followers on his Twitter account @dividendblower, spoke to Sports Handle on the condition of anonymity.
At present, four states have official data mandates, including Tennessee, which was the first state to adopt the provision. In some cases, the provisions are moot when data suppliers sign exclusive partnerships with certain leagues, but in several states, sportsbooks are only required to purchase “official league data,” at commercially reasonable terms. Illinois, Michigan, and Virginia, also have mandates to use official data.
Following reports of Sportradar’s soaring valuation, users have gathered on investing messaging boards on Reddit to speculate on a potential suitor. Companies with a sports technology focus, a team with prior SPAC expertise, and ones with a connection to Sportradar have emerged as possible candidates. One hot name is RedBall Acquisition (RBAC), a SPAC formed by former Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane.
— SPAC Hawk (@SPACHawk) February 21, 2021
Another possibility is Burgundy Technology Acquisition Corp (BTAQ), a blank check company that raised $345 million in an August 2020 IPO. Hervé Couturier, a Sportradar chairman, was named to Burgundy Technology’s board last August, according to an SEC filing. SPACs formed by Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley and Chamath Palihapitiya, a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors, have also been mentioned as possibilities.
One other company that cannot be ignored is GS Acquisition Holdings Corp II (GSAH), a SPAC sponsored by an affiliate of Goldman Sachs. Last month, Sportradar named Jeff Yabuki as chairman of Sportradar Holding AG’s board of directors. Yabuki, who most recently served as executive chairman at Fiserv, has deep Wall Street ties.
Some industry experts believe Sportradar has room to grow based on the performance of its peers in public markets. After closing its SPAC deal at $10 a share, DMYD (Genius Sports) traded on Thursday around $18. DraftKings, meanwhile, has a market capitalization in excess of $22 billion, ahead of Friday’s quarterly earnings release.
During the 2020 sports calendar, Sportradar had partnerships with all four major North American professional sports leagues, including a deal with the NFL that gave the company exclusive rights to distribute real-time official NFL league data to U.S. legal sportsbooks. But as the NFL enters negotiations with broadcast networks on a new deal, the league must also complete a new gambling data rights partnership to replace the expiring one with Sportradar, The Athletic reported.
Both Sportradar and Genius Sports, have deals in some form with the NBA and MLB.
The MLB regular season begins five weeks from today with Opening Day on April 1.