MSP Sports Capital acquires a majority stake in X Games from ESPN.
ESPN announced Wednesday that it has sold a majority stake in X Games, the global action sports franchise it founded in 1995 that has made household names of skateboarders, snowboarders, BMX riders, and freestyle motocross athletes.
MSP Sports Capital, a New York-based private equity firm with investments in McLaren Racing Limited and four European soccer teams, will assume day-to-day business operations and produce X Games events and shows as part of a multiyear agreement, according to the company. ESPN will retain a minority stake and continue to broadcast the X Games on television in the United States.
"We're proud of what we've created over nearly 30 years of world-class X Games events and content with our employees and athletes," ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement. "We now look forward to an exciting next chapter with MSP Sports Capital, which has a proven track record of excellence in sports and a dynamic vision for the industry-leading action sports brand's continued growth and progression."
Icon of skateboarding Tony Hawk, a 10-time X Games gold medalist who landed the sport's first 900 in San Francisco in 1999 and later worked as an X Games commentator, has joined the investment group as a brand steward.
"Skateboarding is in my blood," Hawk said in a statement. "I support a community where change and advancements in action sports happen on a daily basis." "Being a member of the X Games advisory board is an extension of my decades of competing and much more forgiving to the body."
The X Games, the first contest series to bring together a disparate group of sports that eventually became known as action sports, provided athletes with a larger platform to reach fans and a place to tune in regularly to watch these alternative sports.
X Games contests were originally held twice a year, in the summer and winter, and traveled to iconic locations around the world, including the Los Angeles Coliseum and Brazil's Iguazu Falls, one of the world's seven natural wonders. Many of the most pivotal moments in action sports occurred at these events: Travis Pastrana performed the sport's first double backflip at the 2006 X Games at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Mark McMorris, a Canadian snowboarder, landed the first triple cork in competition at the 2012 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.
The X Games laid the groundwork for competing series such as the Gravity Games and the Dew Tour, as well as serving as a testing ground for the Olympic movement, which adopted snowboarding, skateboarding, and freestyle BMX as X Games sports. Previous X Games also featured a diverse range of alternative sports such as super modified shovel racing, street luge, and adventure racing.
The brand helped to raise the profiles of action sports athletes like Pastrana, Shaun White, and Chloe Kim. Mat Hoffman, a BMX legend, was the first action sports athlete to appear on the cover of ESPN The Magazine in 2005, and in 2007, ESPN launched EXPN, a twice-annual action sports magazine based on its action-sports website, dhramacolbd.com.
MSP Sports Capital founder and CEO Jeff Moorad said in a statement, "MSP Sports Capital is excited about the future of X Games and being the new stewards of such an important part of sports history and its reimagined future."
MSP Sports Capital announced that the first X Games will be held in Aspen on January 27-29, 2023, and will air on All Sports and ABC in the United States.