- Live events have been on the rebound since the pandemic.
- Private equity and VCs are looking to cash in as people flock to concert halls, stadiums, and beyond.
- They’re betting on companies that host events, design arenas, provide ticketing services, and more.
As record crowds pay exorbitant prices to see Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and other top acts, investors are eyeing the companies that power these unforgettable experiences behind the scenes.
They’re betting on a rebound in in-person entertainment and sports events since the pandemic, and in some cases, they’re also looking to balance out their stakes in filmed entertainment, which is experiencing a correction as media companies cut spending to get back to profitability.
Along with private equity firms investing heavily in professional sports teams and media conglomerates such as Disney pouring money into theme parks, these investors see opportunity in companies that design and outfit arenas, provide ticketing services, and more.
Providence Equity Partners, for example, recently acquired an undisclosed minority stake in Populous, an architecture and design firm whose portfolio includes the Yankee and Wembley stadiums.
Bluestone Equity Partners, which was founded this year with $300 million, has also invested in two companies that serve sports and entertainment venues.
Providence has been betting on live entertainment-related businesses for 20 years, a thesis that hasn’t changed despite the fact that some of its portfolio companies, such as Top Golf and service provider Tait, have all but shut down due to the pandemic.
“Originally, we got excited about that thesis because digital was disrupting entertainment, and live was something that couldn’t be disrupted,” Scott Marimow, managing director at Providence, told Insider. “There’s going to be an enduring demand for people to get together in person in large groups to consume entertainment.”
“Live events are having a moment because consumers want to get out and about,” said EY’s Americas Media & Entertainment lead, John Harrison. “In PE, VC, there’s a thesis that with the growth of live events, there’s an ecosystem of putting on these events, so there’s an investment path: production, catering, lighting, advertising solutions, data and analytics.”
Of course, there is no guarantee that the good times will continue. Ticket prices for major events are already stinging concertgoers. If the economy enters a slump and people cut back on those and other expenditures, the companies that service events, as well as promoters and talent, may be squeezed, according to Harrison.
However, in recent years, both established and new investors have seized the opportunity to profit from live event spending, which is outpacing media and entertainment spending overall. According to PWC, live event revenue will reach $68.7 billion in 2024, up from $66.6 billion in 2019.
Insider has identified nine firms, listed alphabetically, that are making significant investments in companies involved in live entertainment.
Ardian is a private equity firm based in Paris that was founded in 1996 and manages $96 billion in assets across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. It paid approximately $900 million for Audiotonix, which manufactures music-mixing consoles used on tours by bands such as Coldplay and U2, in 2019.
In October, Audiotonix acquired Fourier Audio, whose software is used on Broadway theater productions and music tours, through its brand DiGiGo. Ardian told PEHub that it is looking for more deals. The firm’s thesis is based on the return of live events, as well as the idea of bringing premium services to them — Audiotonix is one of the companies providing technology to Sphere, Las Vegas’ new entertainment venue.
Bluestone Equity Partners
Bluestone, which was founded in early 2023 by ex-NBA executive Bobby Sharma with a $300 million initial fund, has invested approximately $30 million in PMY Group, which provides technical design and management for sports venues such as SoFi Stadium and New York’s Citi Field, and approximately $20 million in RWS Global, which does design, casting, and programming for clients such as Apple and Holland America Line.
According to Sharma, people are placing a higher value on physical experiences while also sharing them digitally with their networks. “Businesses and rights-holders that recognize and nurture that reality, and provide, serve, host, or enhance such social experiences within it, will win,” he went on to say.
The Las Vegas-based private equity firm is expanding into sports and media. It and private equity firm Juggernaut Capital Partners purchased Thrill One Sports & Entertainment in 2022, which is known for action sports events and related entertainment such as “The Dude Perfect Show.” The Wall Street Journal reported that the transaction was worth $300 million. Fiume and Juggernaut had previously invested in 3 Step Sports LLC, a Wilmington, Massachusetts-based youth sports club and event operator.
Folk Media Collective
Former CBS executive Eric Kuhn and former Microsoft executive Tre’ Scott recently founded the company to invest in live and filmed entertainment production companies. Folk Productions is their creative arm. Their thesis is that investors have overlooked production, and they see an opportunity to support early-stage companies in areas such as costume, sound, and production management that can help make premium content at scale. It hasn’t announced any investments yet, but a collaboration with Amplify Pictures, a content studio expanding into live productions, could be a precursor.
L2 is a private equity firm based in Devon, Pennsylvania, and Miami, Florida, with a focus on niche, founder-led businesses. Family Quest Entertainment, a live event company focused on family entertainment and education, is one of its holdings. Family Quest is the umbrella name for the dinosaur exhibit Jurassic Quest and the Lego festival Brick Fest Live, both of which are held in cities throughout North America. Family Quest is poised for expansion, with plans to enter new markets and add new properties by 2024.
MUSIC is a venture capital firm led by musician and music executive Matt Pincus that focuses on various aspects of the music industry. It most recently led a $65 million round in Dice, a platform for event discovery and ticketing for live events such as comedy and drag cabaret. Splice, a music-creation platform, and HIFI, a music financial services company, were previously invested in. Pincus launched his firm with Liontree in 2019; three years later, he raised $200 million in a relaunch of its partnership with Liontree, which included JS Capital Management and Schusterman Family Investments.
Providence Equity Partners
Along with being a big supporter of filmed entertainment, the private-equity behemoth believes in the services that support both filmed and live entertainment. It recently acquired an undisclosed stake in Populous, an architecture and design firm whose work includes the Yankee and Wembley stadiums. It has also backed Ambassador Theatre Group, which operates 59 theaters and arenas in the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Providence believes that such investments will continue to pay off, even as consumer tastes in entertainment change. It also sees an opportunity to profit as more venues are built, renovated, and expanded into larger entertainment districts. “The entertainment might change over time, but it’s going to need the same type of services; they need an agent, they need a venue, they need the gear, they need the infrastructure,” Marimow told Insider in an interview.
The investment firm based in Los Angeles has a long history of supporting media, entertainment, and communications companies. Its most recent transactions include a minority growth investment in SaveLive, a music events platform focused on independent venues, promoters, and secondary markets founded by former WME music executive Marc Geiger.
Alan Waxman’s $74 billion private equity firm has become a major player in the sports world, with a portfolio that includes teams (Spain’s Real Madrid and the San Antonio Spurs) as well as live events through Legends, the company behind the luxury suites at the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys.
Sixth Street paid $380 million for a stake in Real Madrid’s stadium operations in 2022, as part of a 20-year deal to increase the stadium’s revenue through sporting and other types of events.
“We’re very bullish on live events,” Waxman said, according to CNBC. “One thing we discovered during COVID was that people enjoy doing things… There are numerous ways to play that.”