NBCUniversal and investment partner Atairos have paid $293 million for a 30% stake in fabled country music brand the Grand Ole Opry and a cluster of related Nashville-based live entertainment and assets.
The Opry’s home, Ryman Auditorium, is known for hosting the Country Music Awards. It is a cornerstone of Opry Entertainment Group, the division of Ryman Hospitality Properties receiving the investment from NBCU. Along with the Ryman and the Opry itself, a nearly century-old country music showcase, properties include a smaller collection of music venues called Ole Red, radio station WSM-AM and a 50% interest in country lifestyle media network Circle. The network is a joint venture with Gray Television, a major station group owner. The weekly “Grand Ole Opry” stage show streams on Circle.
Atairos is shouldering almost the entire cost of acquiring the stake, putting in $278 million, compared with a direct investment of $15 million by NBCU. The transaction, which is expected to close during the current quarter, values Opry Entertainment at $1.415 billion. That amount will rise to $1.515 billion, according to the deal terms, once an additional $30 million is kicked in by Atairos, contingent on certain performance targets being hit. OEG will also be recapitalized via a $300 million term loan, on top of the 30% stake sale.
“Over the last decade we have shared our excitement about the bright future of our entertainment business and the significant value creation opportunities that exist as we extend our reach nationwide and transition OEG to an integrated country lifestyle platform,” Ryman Hospitality CEO Colin Reed said in the deal announcement.
After receiving unsolicited interest in June 2021, Ryman began a formal strategic process to consider its options. Covid has altered the calculus for many live-event venues, which have finally returned to relatively normal operations after two years marked by significant interruptions and a slowdown in travel and leisure spending.
Atairos and NBCUniversal “have a great appreciation for the legendary assets under our stewardship,” Reed added, “and we are aligned on protecting and nurturing them for future generations of music lovers to enjoy. We view this partnership as a significant opportunity to strengthen these beloved institutions and cement their influence on American music culture.”
Atairos CEO Michael Angelakis said the Opryland portfolio offers “a strong foundation for continued growth as a fully-integrated country lifestyle platform. We are excited to partner with the RHP and OEG teams to explore new content distribution strategies and support their ambition of becoming the leading player in country lifestyle live entertainment and media content.”
David Pietrycha, EVP Strategy and Business Development at NBCU, said the company looks forward to exploring “opportunities to leverage our media, technology and content creation expertise to help OEG accelerate its plans and bring its iconic brands, as well as artists and storied cities, to music lovers worldwide.”
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