Dolphins Vice Chair Matt Higgins Launches $350 Million SPAC

Brendan Coffey
·3 min read

Matt Higgins, vice chair of the Miami Dolphins and co-founder of RSE Ventures, is seeking $350 million in a new special purpose acquisition company, according to a filing with SEC. The SPAC, Omnichannel Acquisition Corp., is seeking the money to find a business worth $1 billion to $2.5 billion in the cross-channel retail, consumer e-commerce sectors in North America.

The blank-check company has a blend of sports business and consumer products executives involved. Its chief financial officer is Chris Pantoya, who is also the chief commercial officer and head of strategy at FANchise, a pro football esports platform backed by well-known venture capital firms Lightspeed and Verizon Venture, among others. She previously was senior vice president and global head of the NBA’s digital subscription business for live and on-demand content.

Among Omnichannel’s numerous advisors is Lyle Ayes, who had been operating partner at RedBird Capital, where he advised on the sale of On Location Experiences. Ayes also advised on the $2.4 billion sale of IMG to WME and Silver Lake, among other deals in his career. Claudia Lezcano is an advisor as well. She was formerly chief marketing officer of the Dolphins and has worked on marketing with the Miami Marlins and Burger King. Higgins has also retained as an advisor Gary Vaynerchuk, the entrepreneur who first gained renown and a wide social media following as a New Jersey wine store owner and passionate New York Jets fan. Vaynerchuk has since founded media and athlete representation companies VaynerMedia and VaynerSports, among other businesses.

While the SPAC has a number of sports executives, other people involved signal an intent to focus on consumer products of some sort rather than sports. The third member of the Omnichannel executive team with Higgins and Pantoya is Austin Simon, who has lengthy experience in retail-focused Wall Street firms including Kainos Capital and Gordon Brothers Group. Among board members proposed for the blank-check firm are beauty industry entrepreneur Bobbi Brown, Albert Carey, chairman of Unifi Inc. and former CEO of PepsiCo North America, and Priya Dogra, who is president of WarnerMedia Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia (ex-China).

Omnichannel chairman and CEO Higgins has been vice chair of the NFL’s Dolphins since 2012 and started RSE Ventures, an investment firm, with billionaire team owner Stephen Ross. Ross isn’t involved in the SPAC. A native New Yorker, Higgins also was an executive at the Lower Manhattan Development Company, which was part of the effort to redevelop the Twin Towers site after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Higgins also is credited in the prospectus with incubating the Drone Racing League, the International Champions Cup and some of heralded restaurateur David Chang’s efforts. The offering document also highlights his appearances on the reality TV show Shark Tank as a qualification.

Omnichannel’s strategy is to find a business that can benefit from the digital shift in retail that has fragmented how consumers shop. The firm intends to focus on lower customer acquisition methods such as social media, while avoiding capital-heavy expenditures like physical retail locations.

Omnichannel is one of more than two dozen sports-focused or sports executive-led SPACs to come to market in recent weeks. SPACs raise money at an IPO with the intent—but not the obligation—of finding a business to acquire in a stated sector or geographical area. By rule, a SPAC cannot have an acquisition target identified prior to its IPO. Citigroup is the book running manager for the offering. The company intends to list on the New York Stock Exchange.

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