Ice Cube Wants Backing By Private Equity Firm Centerbridge Partners To Buy Sports Networks From Disney

Ice Cube Wants Backing By Private Equity Firm Centerbridge Partners To Buy Sports Networks From Disney

Ice Cube
BIG3 basketball league founder Ice Cube smiles as he is introduced during Game 2 in the BIG3 Basketball League’s debut, Sunday, June 25, 2017, at the Barclays Center in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Ice Cube wants to buy a group of regional sports networks that are for sale by Disney as part of its $71 billion Fox takeover, and private equity firm Centerbridge Partners is considering backing the hip-hop-artist-entrepreneur-investor, Bloomberg reported.

Along with LL Cool J and entrepreneur Jeff Kwatinetz, Ice Cube runs the Big3 three-on-three basketball league, started in 2017. The league features retired National Basketball Association players and international athletes. Big 3 is preparing to submit a fully financed bid for the TV channels, according to unnamed Bloomberg sources.

Big3 has significant financial backing and hopes to create a new national network aimed at a younger, more diverse audience than traditional sports channels.

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“I like the marriage connecting between sports and culture,” LL Cool J said in a March 9 interview with NBC News, and he described the vision for the new network. “A new network for a new world … something that could usher in a new era and really bring the voice of the new generation to the forefront. The Gen Zs, the millennials, really give these kids a platform, a way to engage in sports in a really cool and fun and exciting way — having a full network, great baseball being played and surrounding those great sports with really culturally diverse programming that really looks like America and has the voice of where the world is going.”

At first analysts estimated the value of the networks at $20 billion to $22 billion. Disney got offers lower than that, Bloomberg reported. The networks are now expected to sell for more like $10 billion. Ice Cube will have competition.

In an earlier round of bidding, offers were made by Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.Apollo Global Management LLC and Major League Baseball. Consolidation among would-be owners is a possibility. In February, Minnesota Twins owner Jim Pohlad joined Platinum Equity LLC and Liberty Media Corp.’s bidder group.

LL Cool J’s vision embodies a place where politics meets pop culture and sports — where all voices are welcomed and can be heard, he told NBC News.

“Long gone are the days when you just silence people,” LL Cool J said during a discussion of Colin Kaepernick. “Everybody is not going to agree with everything but I think that’s what will make this network special because all sides will be represented. That’s how sports fans really talk. That’s the real world. This will be a reflection of the real world, the way it really is.”

When he first started in the hip hop business, LL Cool J said he got kicked
out of a lot of offices. “We have a new idea again,” he said. “We’re on the cusp of another type of breakthrough. But this time it’s not music but sports and culture…

” … the same way we reinvented music and hip hop in a lot of ways, we believe in reinventing where sports and culture intersect.”

With offices in New York and London, private equity firm Centerbridge Partners focuses on leveraged buyouts and distressed securities. It is led by alums of Blackstone and Angelo, Gordon & Co.

Centerbridge Partners raised a total of $894 million in a single venture fund — Centerbridge Partners Real Estate Fund — announced on Feb. 14, 2019, according to Crunchbase.

It closed a reported $6 billion in 2014. “Put that fundraising prowess to work when LPs have money to burn, and a $10 billion effort might be around the corner,” Kevin Dowd reported for Pitchbook in May 2018.