Fertitta Capital invests in Action Network

22 February 2019

Nakisa Bidarian, the CEO of Fertitta Capital, has joined the Action Network’s board of directors after the private equity firm led a $17.5m (£13.4m/€15.4m) Series B funding round for the sports betting analytics provider.

Fertitta Capital’s chairman and principal is Lorenzo Fertitta, who created what is now the Red Rock Resorts casino empire in the United States alongside his brother, Frank. The duo also established Zuffa, which acquired the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2001 before selling the mixed martial arts series to the WME|IMG agency in 2016 in a deal worth at least $4bn.

“Since its inception, Fertitta Capital has focused on uncovering opportunities to leverage our unique combination of experience across sports, media and betting,” Bidarian (pictured) said. “The Action Network is the ideal investment to allow us to fully leverage that experience. We are confident that the company’s best-in-class leadership team, products and content will continue to expand its position as the leading sports betting media company.”

The funding round also included some high-profile figures and organisations from the sports industry, including Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs, as well as David Blitzer of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which owns stakes in the Philadelphia 76ers NBA basketball franchise and the New Jersey Devils NHL ice hockey team.

Esports equity firm Bitkraft Esports Ventures, former Twitter chief operating officer Anthony Noto and 6721 Capital, a new fund established by renowned sports marketing executive Casey Wasserman, were among the other investors.

The Chernin Group, the media holding company that founded the Action Network in October 2017 ahead of its full launch in January 2018, also reinvested, with Mike Kerns, president of Chernin Digital, confirmed as the new chairman of the company’s board of directors as a result.

“The company’s remarkable growth this last year is a testament to our strong leadership team, and this latest financing will help us expand our audience reach and depth of product offerings for years to come,” Kerns said.

The Action Network was formed after media tycoon Peter Chernin acquired Sports Insights, FantasyLabs and SportsAction, combining the three to create the new business.

FantasyLabs specialised in data and tools for daily fantasy sports theories, while Sports Insights operated as a betting enterprise, tracking real-time scores and offering betting line analysis. SportsAction was an app that featured live scores, betting odds and gambling advice.

The combined company now operates as a subscription-based platform, offering punters access to data and analytical tools, as well as relevant articles, podcasts and videos.

Patrick Keane, who was appointed as the company’s CEO in November, said: “With sports betting now legal in eight states and more than a dozen other states considering legislation to legalise, we see an incredible opportunity as we focus on securing the necessary approvals in regulated US sports betting jurisdictions as well as those around the world.”

Downloads of the Action Network’s app increased by more than 700% on the NFL’s Super Bowl Sunday earlier this month in comparison with last year’s American football showpiece, with registered users also rocketing by over 500% year-on-year.