NY Post: Learfield Sports being sold

In this map from its website, Learfield Sports depicts the 50-plus universities who partner with the company to produce sports content.

In this map from its website, Learfield Sports depicts the 50-plus universities who partner with the company to produce sports content.

The company isn’t commenting. But the New York Post reported last week that “Learfield Sports is looking to cash in on America’s passion for college athletics (and) is putting itself up for sale.”

Learfield spokeswoman Jennifer Duncan told the News Tribune, in a Friday afternoon e-mail: “It’s our corporate policy not to engage in any discussion on such matters.”

Learfield Sports is a division of Learfield Communications Inc., which was founded in 1972 as the Jefferson City-based Missouri Network Inc. by Clyde Lear and Derry Brownfield, who died in March 2011.

At first, the company provided agriculture news to a half-dozen Missouri radio stations. In January 1975, the company added the Missourinet news service and changed the agriculture service to the “Brownfield Network.” Also in 1975, the company launched a sports service by acquiring the radio broadcast rights to University of Missouri Tigers football and basketball games.

The company’s biggest growth came in sports, with an eventual expansion in news, and the service grew to include more than 50 contracts for the rights to university sports broadcasts.

In December 2011, a “significant majority” of Learfield’s stock was bought by Shamrock Capital Advisors, a Los Angeles-based private equity firm.

Although the Missourinet, Brownfield Network, the sports networks and engineering services still are headquartered in western Jefferson City, the corporate headquarters were moved to Plano, Texas, near Dallas.

The New York Post didn’t mention the 2011 sale in its story.

However, it reported last week: “Sparking the (new) sale, a source (said), is the ever higher prices of rights deals and the possibility that the 38-year-old (Learfield) company was getting priced out of the market.”

The paper noted the effort to sell Learfield Sports comes a year before the launch of the SEC’s own Network.

In recent weeks, the newspaper reported, the SEC has “bought back television rights from Learfield and signed a 20-year deal with ESPN in which the network will sell a bundled package of TV, digital and syndication rights in the new SEC Network.”

The newspaper’s unnamed source said: “The media market now regards major colleges as franchises, like professional sports teams.”

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