IMG to acquire ISP Sports

Published 9:54 pm Friday, July 30, 2010

IMG Worldwide, Inc., a premier global sports, entertainment and media company, and ISP Sports, a U.S. college media rights management company, announced July 28 that ISP has agreed to be acquired by IMG.

Ben C. Sutton Jr., the founder and CEO of ISP, is a native of Murfreesboro and a graduate of Murfreesboro High School. His father, Ben Sr., is the former Business Manager at what is now Chowan University. Ben Jr. was in his hometown in late April where he was the featured speaker at the annual banquet hosted by the Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce.

A definitive purchase agreement has been approved and signed by the parties. Closing is anticipated promptly following certain regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

ISP, headquartered in Winston-Salem, has marketing agreements with some of America’s best-known college athletic programs under management, in addition to conferences, events and venues across the country. With more than 275 employees, ISP is a multi-media rights holder for Alabama, Arizona State, Auburn, Baylor, California, Duke, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Syracuse, UCLA, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Washington, among others.

ISP will be combined with IMG’s existing college sports group, which provides marketing, licensing and media services to universities.

“We are very pleased to add ISP Sports to IMG’s college sports business,” said Ted Forstmann, Chairman and CEO of IMG. “Ben Sutton and his team have built a terrific company, representing some of the most prominent names in college athletics. This acquisition will complement our existing college business, which is an increasingly significant part of IMG, and demonstrates our continued focus on investing in businesses that provide substantial future growth opportunities for IMG.

“It will also be terrific for the college sports fan as this combination provides a great opportunity for us to provide more, better and higher quality programming, as well as expanding the base of customers,” Forstmann added.

“I am very proud of the team and business we have built over nearly 20 years at ISP,” said Sutton. “We are excited about the potential for future growth as part of the incredible company Ted Forstmann and his team at IMG have developed over the past five years. This move will provide our client institutions the opportunity to expand new revenue growth platforms as they seek new and incremental funding sources to build and sustain competitive athletic programs, as well as to help fund their educational programs.

“In addition,” Sutton said, “it will create tremendous benefit for our sponsors by increasing competition for national sales in the college environment, and by providing them with new and enhanced services and increased efficiency.”

Sutton will become President of the newly combined business with responsibility for the day-to-day operations and development of the IMG College business enterprise. While the division will maintain significant operations in Atlanta and Lexington, KY, the IMG College corporate headquarters will be in Winston Salem. Pat Battle, Senior Corporate Vice President of IMG, will assume the newly created position of Chairman of the IMG College Sports Division. Both Sutton and Battle will report to George Pyne, President of IMG’s Sports and Entertainment Group.

“We couldn’t be happier for Ben and his team to have this opportunity to join forces with IMG,” according to Dan Guerrero, Director of Athletics at UCLA and Chair of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee. “ISP has done a magnificent job for the Bruins, but this combination will create an even stronger team and should open more doors to potential national sponsors interested in college sports marketing.”

Gene Smith, Director of Athletics at Ohio State University, commented “on the terrific job the IMG College team has done on behalf of the Buckeyes. But this combination—and I know both companies well—is going to create tremendous opportunities not only for our revenue growth, but also in the expansion of content for our fans. This will make for increased competition in sports sponsorship.”

Following the acquisition, the IMG College division will employ over 700 people in 75 offices throughout the U.S. with annual sales of over $400 million. The Division will manage certain multi-media rights for colleges and collegiate athletic conferences, which includes corporate sponsorships, radio and television programs, publishing, printing, creative design, marketing, Internet, national advertising and signage sales, and numerous lifestyle and event marketing platforms.

It will also serve as the exclusive licensing agency for more than 200 collegiate properties, including the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), The Rose Bowl, the Heisman Trophy and the NCAA, as well as many of the most recognized colleges and universities throughout the United States, assisting them with a wide array of licensing and administrative services.

In addition, IMG College has had a 30-year relationship with the NCAA, representing NCAA Properties including NCAA Corporate Partners and NCAA Events and Hospitality. The Division is also involved in stadium facilities financing and in the stadium seating business through its IMG Legends joint venture with the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys.