Patriots Owner Robert Kraft Joins Investors Backing Upstart Lacrosse League
(Bloomberg) -- The Premier Lacrosse League raised new funds from investors such as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, shoring up the organization just ahead of a third season that gets underway at the Patriots’ stadium.
Among the new investors is private equity firm Arctos Sports Partners, the league said in a statement. Existing backer Joe Tsai, the billionaire co-founder of Alibaba Group, also participated. The financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, though PLL Chief Executive Officer Mike Rabil said the valuation increased from previous rounds.
After navigating the pandemic and merging with a rival league last year, the PLL will use the new funds to expand its media team and improve the broadcasts of its live games. It’s also looking to enhance its technology and invest more in youth lacrosse, Rabil said in the statement.
The PLL’s merger with Major League Lacrosse, which was founded in 1999, was announced at the end of 2020, when Rabil said the deal would make the combined organization “a single destination for the best lacrosse in the world.”
The PLL’s second season, completed last year, took the form of a quarantined tournament in Herriman, Utah. There were zero Covid-19 cases, the league said. Now it looks to kick off its third season on June 4 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The league will then make stops in cities such as Atlanta and Baltimore before the first round of playoffs start in August in Salt Lake City.
The PLL expects revenue to double this year compared with its inaugural season in 2019, and the goal is to be profitable by 2024. Though the pandemic brought challenges, the league managed to increase sponsorship revenue and saw higher demand for online subscriptions -- fueled by viewers stuck at home. The PLL has taken an aggressive approach to sponsorships, going as far as selling off its own name: It’s known officially as “The Premier Lacrosse League powered by Ticketmaster.”
The league was launched in 2019 by Rabil and his brother Paul, the sport’s best-known player. In addition to the new investors, its backers include Raine Group, Creative Artists Agency and Brett Jefferson Holdings. The games are shown on NBC networks and the Peacock service as part of a three-year deal with Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal. The latest season will feature 21 games on NBC and NBCSN, in addition to 23 on Peacock.
“We believe in the entrepreneurial leadership that Michael and Paul Rabil bring to the professional advancement of lacrosse,” Kraft said in the statement. Tsai added that the “PLL’s momentum in fan engagement and business accomplishments over the last 18 months suggests a promising future for the sport.”
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