Celtics, 49ers Owners Launch SPAC To Hunt for Next Peloton or FitBit

Brendan Coffey
·3 min read

Owners of the Boston Celtics, San Francisco 49ers and Leeds United have filed to raise $200 million for a special purpose acquisition company to seek out an acquisition in the fitness and wellness market. The SPAC, Athlon Acquisition, filed its intention to raise money at an IPO with regulators last night. Athlon “intends to focus in the health, wellness and fitness sectors and the products, devices, applications, and technology driving growth within these verticals,” it stated in its prospectus.

Athlon is sponsored by Causeway Media Partners, the Boston-based investment partnership that includes Boston Celtics majority owner Wyc Grousbeck; Mark Wan, a limited partner in the Celtics, San Francisco 49ers and Leeds United; and Bob Higgins, who previously led global venture capital fund Highland Capital. Wan is the sole partner with a management position in Athlon, where he is executive chairman and director. Grousbeck and Higgins are cited in the prospectus as members of Causeway. Causeway declined to comment, citing the SEC quiet period.

Joining Wan in managing the blank check firm is Chris Hickey, a sports nutrition pioneer who has headed performance nutrition at Abbott Labs, was marketing head at athlete performance company EXOS and, most recently, served as CEO of Isopure, a protein shake maker. Isopure was sold to Glanbia plc for $153 million in 2014 and doubled its revenue in three years under Hickey’s guidance. Causeway’s chief financial officer, David Poltack, assumes the same role at Athlon.

Leading the slate of directors is Paraag Marathe, the president of 49ers Enterprises, the San Francisco franchise’s investment arm, and executive vice president of football operations for the NFL team. Marathe joined 49ers 20 years ago as an early advocate of data and analytics use in football. Joining Marathe on the board is Jared Smith, the president of Ticketmaster and executive vice president of Live Nation; Daniel Gallagher, CFO of Crunch, a fast-growing gym company; and Daniel Burns, who is executive chairman of EXOS.

While Athlon doesn’t cite specific companies as examples of what it’s seeking, the fitness technology space has been a hot investment, led by Pelton, the stationary bike maker whose shares have quadrupled this year, as well as FitBit, the company that made wearable fitness technology a mainstream consumer product. In Athlon’s case, the company says it has four qualities it will seek in an acquisition target, including strong consumer brand affinity, being a “category leader or disruptor” in a high-growth segment of the market, demonstrable wellness outcomes and having a consumer technology connection.

Since the DraftKings went public by SPAC this spring, dozens of sports-related blank check companies have been coming to market. Once Athlon is public, it has 24 months to secure a purchase or will need to return its IPO capital to shareholders—by rule, Athlon can’t identify a specific acquisition prior to its IPO. As proposed, the IPO will sell 20 million units to investors, consisting of one share and one-half of a warrant, which is a company issued right to purchase additional shares at $11.50. Athlon intends to list on the Nasdaq Stock Market if its IPO is completed. Jefferies is the lead banker on the offering.

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