ESPN sells X Games to MSP Sports Capital – The Durango Herald

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Aspen Skiing Co. has hosted the Winter X Games since 2002 and has a contract through 2024

Gus Kenworthy competes in the 2021 men’s superpipe final at the Winter X Games in Aspen. ESPN has franchised the X Games to MSP Sports Capital but will continue to broadcast the events. (Michael Ciaglo/Associated Press)

ESPN is selling the X Games franchise to a New York-based private equity firm invested in European auto racing and soccer teams.

MSP Sports Capital announced in late October that it had acquired a majority stake in the Disney-owned network’s X Games, which includes the Winter X Games festival hosted by Aspen Skiing Co. since 2002. MSP Sports Capital, which formed in 2019, is invested in Formula One McLaren Racing and four football clubs in Belgium, Germany, Portugal and Spain.

MSP Sports Capital will own the majority of the X Games franchise and ESPN Productions will retain a minority stake while serving as a broadcast partner for summer and winter events. MSP will lead day-to-day operations at Aspen X Games.

MSP co-founder and CEO Jeff Moorad said in a statement that his company is thrilled to be “the new stewards of such an important part of the sport’s history and its reimagined future.”

Aspen has guided the Winter X Games from sporting events to annual festivals, with tens of thousands of people attending both concerts and contests. The X Games have matured in Aspen, growing from daredevil contests – like shovel races – to sports featuring Olympic-caliber athletes. Many of the most recognized action sports and new-school Olympics athletes debuted at the Aspen X Games. The Olympics have welcomed new generations of seasoned X Games athletes, creating more X Games type events with each Olympics.

Aspen Skiing Co. Vice President John Rigney visited MSP Sports Capital bosses at the X Games event in January and “they were very complimentary and seemed excited about how the events were going” , did he declare.

“I’m very curious about their vision for the X Games brand and specifically what they hope to achieve in Aspen,” said Rigney, who has worked with ESPN on every Aspen Winter X Games since 2002. “I think that it’s going to be exciting to have new energy and new perspectives. And I love that ESPN have their finger in the cake and stay in the mix. They have the institutional knowledge and know-how that makes the Xs shine Games.

In a column this spring in Sportico magazine, Moorad tracked the evolution of investing in sports organizations as an asset, not just an ego-driven quest for the very wealthy. A growing number of private equity and venture capital funds like MSP Sports Capital are investing in sports teams and the values ​​of teams and leagues are outpacing more traditional investments, Moorad wrote.

“We believe the combination of competitive dynamics, cultural significance and growing management sophistication positions teams, leagues and sports-related businesses for continued growth in revenue, revenue and valuations,” wrote Moorad, who founded MSP Sports Capital with minority Phoenix Suns owner Jahm. Najaf and Arne Rees, the North American director of sports technology company Sportsradar.

ESPN founded the X Games in 1995, providing a platform for a new generation of action sports athletes. Summer and winter events have also created a new way of watching action sports, providing never-before-seen views of skiing, snowboarding, motocross, snowmobiling, BMX and skateboarding.

A statement from MSP Sports Capital announcing the acquisition said the company will “focus on infusing new energy” into the X Games brand, prioritizing “first time athlete and fan experiences” and by investing in new technologies “to launch the brand into the future”.

Aspen Skiing Co and the communities of the Roaring Fork Valley have been key partners for ESPN, hosting the Winter X Games for 21 years at the Buttermilk Ski Area. ESPN and Aspen Skiing Co. signed a contract in 2019 to host the X Games through January 2024.

ESPN explored other sites to host the Winter X Games but always returned to Aspen, renewing agreements with Aspen Skiing Co. in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2019.

Aspen is part of “the original DNA of what Winter X Games has become,” said Steven Flisler, the new X Games CEO who attended his first Winter X Games in January. He most recently served as vice president of content for live-streaming service Twitch.

Flisler said MSP Sports Capital is focused on making the X Games more accessible to more people at live events and on digital platforms. MSP Sports Capital is still considering expansion plans for the Winter X Games.

“We’re going to be really smart,” Flisler said. “We want an event that makes the most sense as we grow it and make it more accessible and get the fit right. It has to make sense. Aspen’s legacy is an opportunity for us to have a starting point.

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