R.I. firm buys majority ownership of Learfield

Jefferson City’s Learfield Communications is getting a new majority owner.

Twenty-one months ago, Learfield sold a majority of its stock to Los Angeles-based Shamrock Capital Advisors.

Now, Providence Equity Partners of Providence, R.I., is going to buy that majority of stock and assume control of the sports and broadcast services company.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but require regulatory approval. Learfield and Providence announced the deal this week.

“Providence is the leading global private equity firm focused on media, communications, education and information investments,” the companies said in a news release.

“Providence ... will help Learfield further expand its strategy for growth in the collegiate multimedia rights arena.”

Learfield Sports is the key factor in the transaction, although all Learfield operations are included in the sale.

“Learfield Sports owns the multimedia rights to over 50 of the leading college programs in the country and has prominence in all of the major athletic conferences,” the news release noted. “Learfield’s rights are exclusive and encompass all athletic department media and sponsorships components, including stadium signage and numerous content distribution platforms.”

The company says it delivers sports programming to more than 50 million television households nationally and delivers nearly 17,000 hours of radio programming on more than 1,100 radio stations.

Learfield Communications Inc. 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 acquired the radio broadcast rights to University of Missouri Tigers football and basketball games — which grew into today’s sports division.

The Missourinet, Brownfield Network and engineering services still operate from corporate headquarters in western Jefferson City, while many of the sports division's operations moved to Plano, Texas, near Dallas, after the December 2011 sale to Shamrock.

This week’s news release said Greg Brown, Learfield’s president and CEO, will continue to lead the senior management team, all of whom still are owners in the company.

“Aside from significant new growth investments, there are no plans to make changes to the staffing, management or operations of the company,” the news release said.

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Correction: Learfield's corporate headquarters are in Jefferson City at 505 Hobbs Road, while many of the Learfield Sports division's operations are in Plano, Texas. The information about the location of corporate headquarters that appeared in the original version of this article was incorrect. The above text has since been corrected.

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