Since graduating from the University of Virginia in 1991, Gabby Roe has devoted his professional career to launching, helping lead and consulting for niche sports properties. Roe’s experience includes founding a beach soccer league, serving as an executive for Major League Lacrosse and the AVP beach volleyball league and running his own sports consulting company for the past 10 years.
That firm, Maestroe Sports & Entertainment, has worked with dozens of clients to achieve and exceed their business objectives. And now, Maestroe is taking the next step in its evolution, as the company has been acquired by Legends, a company founded in 2008 by the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys that initially focused on running the concessions at their stadiums and others at sports venues and entertainment complexes.
Since then, Legends has grown to become a major advisory firm working with clients in professional and college sports and entertainment, helping them with business plans, sponsorship sales, arena naming rights deals, merchandising and other areas. Last year, Sixth Street, an investment firm with $60 billion of assets under management, acquired a majority stake in Legends in a deal that valued the company at $1.3 billion. The Yankees and Cowboys continue to hold a significant minority stake in Legends.
Mike Tomon, the co-president and chief operating officer of Legends, would not disclose financial details of the Maestroe deal. But he said the addition of Maestroe helps Legends expand into what he calls “growth” sports leagues that are in their early stages or have the potential to become a bigger part of the industry. As such, Legends has launched a new division, dubbed Legends Growth Enterprises, that will be led by Roe.
The division will continue to work with Maestroe’s existing clients, which include the International Axe Throwing Federation, Spikeball, USA Pickleball and Karate Combat. It will also pursue other sports clients as well as those in the entertainment industry.
“The underpinning (of Legends) has always been about growth for our clients,” Tomon said. “As we looked to further expand that approach, we saw Gabby and Maestroe as uniquely positioned to not only further that but to be a key differentiator on how they approach some of these earlier stage opportunities. As Gabby likes to coin them, they’re the tech stocks of the (sports) business.”
Roe describes Maestroe as “the unofficial but self-proclaimed flag-bearer of these emerging sports properties” that are overshadowed in the United States by the NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and other established leagues. The company’s work through the years has included helping new leagues get off the ground with their business plans, helping leagues secure venues and media rights deals and aiding with sponsorship sales.
A few months ago, Roe was talking about a new sports league with Shervin Mirhashemi, a longtime friend and the chief executive of Legends. The two had those types of informal conversations on a regular basis, but this time Mirhashemi brought up the idea of Legends acquiring Maestroe.
Roe said he was not looking to sell the company and had not hired an investment bank to pursue suitors. But the more he spoke with Mirhashemi, the more the idea of a sale made sense. By becoming part of Legends, Maestroe will expand their capabilities in sponsorships and other business lines while expanding to areas where they had not been active, including data and analytics and merchandising.
The new Legends division may also acquire equity stakes in up-and-coming sports leagues, something Maestroe had not previously done.
“I have loved and respected the Legends brand since it was launched,” Roe said. “It’s a dream come true for me to be able to join up with Legends and Shervin and Mike Tomon and the whole team.”
He added: “We see ourselves as the advocate for these (niche sports). Even more than the personal side of it, it’s showing these emerging sports are real and there’s a place for them in the sports hierarchy. We’ve been sticking up for the little guy for many years. It’s nice to have a large, extremely reputable company (in Legends) that believes alongside of us and is now going to pump as much of their expertise and resources into these sports properties. I think it’s awesome for the industry.”
The Maestroe acquisition is the latest deal for Legends. Late last month, the company announced it had bought 4FRONT, a data and analytics and digital media firm whose clients have included the UFC, Chicago Bears and New York Mets. Tomon noted that Legends will use 4FRONT’s technologies and capabilities to help clients that Maestroe has worked with and attract new business. He also expects Legends will complete more deals in the coming months, as well, thanks to Sixth Street’s investment.
“(Sixth Street) brings a ton of strategic and financial wherewithal to ultimately help the growth of the business,” Tomon said. “We are in growth mode. But we’re really focused on the right type of growth, to make sure it’s strategic and fits in with the overall vision. We’re aggressively pursuing that.”