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Blue Equity dominating the gameMay 28th, 2009
May 28, 2009
Lexington, KY - For many Central Kentuckians, the state has always been the center of their sports world, with UK, Churchill Downs and Keeneland as well as University of Louisville sports. These local icons have always been supplemented by the full range of sports and events organized and directed by Host Communications and their new IMG management structure. What has been experienced to date still remains in place, but there is a significant new dimension in the business of sports here in our state--Louisville's Blue Equity and its affiliate Blue Entertainment Sports Television (BEST)--that is taking the role and reputation of our state in sports to a new level worldwide.
A private equity firm in Louisville, Blue Equity, the visionary concept of Louisville businessman and entrepreneur, Jonathan Blue, has moved to the top rank of sports business, including marketing, event creation and operation, and athlete and coach representation firms. Blue, a lifelong Louisville resident and outgoing chair of Greater Louisville Inc. (our sister city's chamber of commerce) has also been a lifelong sports fan who made his first foray into sports business in 2004 when he brought the Mike Tyson-Danny Williams heavyweight fight to Freedom Hall and broadcast it worldwide on Showtime. With this event, Blue clearly saw the positive impact that a major sports event could have on the River City and the commonwealth, as it thrust the city into the national spotlight. The fact that the event was a commercially success was not an unwelcome bonus.
A businessman first, Blue grew his family's heavy industry business, Louisville Scrap Material Co. Inc., severalfold following his college education at Penn and subsequent return to Louisville. Following the sale of Louisville Scrap to Progress Rail Services Corporation, a firm he continued to serve until 2004, and lacking new challenges in that area, Jonathan moved into the real estate development, private equity and sports worlds.
Blue currently serves in a number of other Louisville civic leadership positions and has long been directly involved in efforts to bring an NBA team to Louisville. Although he travels the world regularly and has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles as well as around the world, Blue is clearly a Louisville native at heart, making the point repeatedly, "I was born here. I was raised here. It has a very high quality of life and is a very good place to raise children."
Prior to founding Blue Equity in 2004, Jonathan served as the managing director of a private investment company, ultimately rolling many of the businesses from that effort into Blue Equity. It was Blue Equity's purchase in mid-2006 of the SFX Sports representation firm and other SFX subsidiaries (SFX Television, SFX Events and SFX Tennis) that thrust Blue into the highest echelons of sports business. "We went out and built, almost overnight, an elite organization with some of the pioneers and founders of the industry," Blue said. This acquisition brought Donald Dell, one of the first (and most respected) sports agents who founded ProServ, into Blue Equity.
SFX Tennis clients include the representation of former U.S. Open Champion Andy Roddick, the number one doubles team of Mike and Bob Bryan, and numerous other top-ranked tennis players. Events under the SFX Television unit include the international broadcast rights for the U.S. Tennis Open and the French Tennis Open, as well as major non-tennis events such as the Boston Marathon, "Ice Wars" and the "Superstars" competition, which is being rebranded for broadcast television for the coming summer season.
In 2007, Blue Equity reached into the Lexington market with their acquisition of longtime sports impresario Brooks Downing's Lexington-based Game Seven Sports Marketing.
This acquisition gave Blue Equity a stronger presence in the emerging collegiate sports market as well as the acquisition of Game Seven's strong presence in the representation of major college coaches, including Indiana coach Tom Crean, Arizona State's Herb Sendek, and UK alumnus, Arkansas' John Pelphrey. Events acquired through Game Seven include Lexington's Fifth Third Tennis
Championship and Louisville's Ford Tennis Championship. Also acquired was the
University of Louisville's television network.
Following its acquisitions, Blue Equity rolled all of these sports assets into one entity--Blue Entertainment and Sports Television (BEST) to streamline administration and operating efficiencies and to be able to offer its clients management and coordination across multiple selling opportunities. As a full-service management and production company, it is BEST's aim to provide its clients and brands with numerous cross-selling opportunities through a full range of "experiential" concepts and activities. BEST also owns and runs the Hall of Fame Classic, an annual college basketball doubleheader produced in conjunction with the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
"We were pleased to announce the formation of BEST with all of its increased platform opportunities and efficiencies," said Blue. "With our diverse capabilities and offerings now housed within a single unit, we are positioned to be the preeminent entity for athlete, coach and celebrity representation as well as for our branded content."
Under this combined organization, and in addition to those already noted, BEST represents such celebrities and athletes as Janet Jackson, Reggie Bush, Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes, Rasheed Wallace, Joakim Noah, Shawn Marion and a full range of recent NBA and NFL draft picks. The firm is also heavily involved in mixed martial arts, representing athletes and television rights.
Blue also has an interest in several non-sports companies, including the nation's largest Spanish Yellow Pages, where his strategy of rolling up a variety of smaller players across the country into one larger and more efficient entity was also followed. As Spanish-speaking consumers gain spending power, this offers Blue Equity an increasing marketplace with potential extensions into the sports arena as well.
It is clear that, here in Lexington and in Kentucky, we have been, for many years, blessed with a direct pipeline to the best in sports. We continue to have this exciting opportunity, and the emergence of Blue Equity and BEST ensures that this legacy will only be built on. Kentucky continues to be a major center for sports and sports business and its positive lifestyle influences.