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California and the West

Roy Disney-Led Fund Buys 80% of Harlem Globetrotters

Shamrock Holdings says it hopes to develop merchandising and other new revenue sources for the team.

September 28, 2005|Greg Johnson | Times Staff Writer

An investment fund led by Roy E. Disney has purchased an 80% stake in the Harlem Globetrotters, the parties said Tuesday.

Shamrock Holdings' Capital Growth Fund, based in Burbank, said it hoped to develop merchandising and other new revenue sources for the Globetrotters, who have blended basketball and entertainment for nearly 80 years.

Manny Jackson, a former corporate executive who acquired the Globetrotters in 1993 and nursed it back from near bankruptcy, will retain a 20% ownership stake and stay on as the Phoenix-based company's chairman and chief executive.

The purchase includes the New York Nationals, the squad that has served as the Globetrotters' opponent and comedic foils since 1995 when the Washington Generals were retired.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Jackson put the team on the block in the spring by hiring investment bankers Greene Holcomb & Fisher to explore options.

The deal will "allow the Globetrotters to reach the next level in family sports and entertainment and better serve the team's vast emerging audiences around the world," Jackson said in a statement.

Shamrock Holdings -- founded in 1978 by Roy E. Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney -- is better known for investments in media, entertainment and communications companies. The Globetrotters' blend of basketball and entertainment is unique, Shamrock spokesman Clifford Miller said, noting: "They're vaudeville, the circus ... and pure family entertainment."

The Globetrotters organization generates most of its revenue through ticket sales. The privately held company does not release financial data, but three years ago Jackson said the team generated a $6-million profit and $60 million in revenue.

The team draws about 2 million spectators a year in a four-month season that begins in December. Its annual world tour will touch down next year in 11 countries, including Sweden, France, Spain and Slovakia.

Jackson will retain on-the-court control, Miller said, while Shamrock focuses on corporate sponsorship deals, product licensing agreements and media appearances.

"Little kids, for example, love Globetrotters merchandise, but the Globetrotters haven't done much in that area," Miller said. "There are lots of opportunities to grow the business."

Shamrock's ownership marks another chapter in the colorful history of an organization that played its first basketball game in the late 1920s. After founder Abe Saperstein died in 1966, the team changed hands several times before falling upon hard economic times in the early 1990s. Jackson paid a reported $5.5 million for the team, which was losing $1 million a year.

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