Cubs’ Tom Ricketts, Raine Group Form Sports-Focused SPAC

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Tom Ricketts, top Chicago Cubs executives and investment advisory firm The Raine Group have formed a special purpose acquisition company seeking $325 million for a technology-media-telecom acquisition, including possible acquisition of a sports team, a sports gambling firm or a digital media and podcasting opportunity.

The SPAC, Marquee Raine Acquisition Corp., filed with the SEC Friday afternoon. The blank check sponsor is an equal partnership between Raine, an investment firm often involved in sports, including the pending sale of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Marquee, a business formed by Cubs executive chairman Ricketts and other executives, which launched a regional sports network this year.

The Marquee Raine SPAC identified a series of eight “macro themes” in its prospectus that it says guide its thinking about an acquisition. Among them is ”real money gaming,” in which the firm expects “to see a proliferation of investable opportunities across the real money gaming ecosystem” in the U.S. “Sports-enabled assets” are also cited among the themes, which the SPAC sees creating attractive investment opportunities thanks to the rise of global sports platforms, legal sports gambling and single-entity leagues. Digital media, audio podcasting, live entertainment, health and wellness, interactive games and technology are the other themes cited by Marquee Raine.

SPACs raise money at an IPO to make an acquisition later on, but by rule cannot have identified a target ahead of time. For that reason they typically reserve the option to make an acquisition in any area, while identifying preferred sectors to equity investors.

The new SPAC joins a wave of sports-focused and sports executive-led SPACs that have come to market. As of early November, there were 33 sports-related SPACs, including at least 10 others that have identified target interests that overlap with the Ricketts-Raine blank check. In total, there is about $64 billion capital raised by SPACs seeking an acquisition, according to data compiled by Sportico. Of late, SPACs have faced some headwinds raising funds at IPO and arranging secondary investors to fund proposed deals.

Representing the equal split of SPAC sponsorship, the leadership of Marquee Raine Acquisition is divided between the firms. Crane Kenney, who has been Cubs president of operations since 2009, and Brett Varsov, head of mergers and acquisitions at Raine, are co-CEOs. Ricketts and Brandon Gardner, co-founder of Raine, are each co-chairman. Among seven other executives named in the prospectus are Alexander Sugarman, an executive vice president at the Cubs, and Jason Sondag, who is involved in strategy planning for the Cubs. The Marquee Raine filing was first reported Friday by Renaissance Capital’s website.

Ricketts family patriarch Joe Ricketts bought the Cubs in 2009 for $845 million after making his fortune as head of a discount stock brokerage that is now a division of Charles Schwab. Raine Group has $3.3 billion in assets under management and specializes in the tech-media-telecom space. Credit Suisse is the investment bank handling the SPAC’s proposed IPO.

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