Former NBA Executive Bobby Sharma Launches Private-Equity Firm

Bluestone Equity Partners amasses $300 million to back sports, media and entertainment deals

Bobby Sharma, a former executive with the National Basketball Association and sports-and-entertainment agency IMG Worldwide LLC, is launching a private-equity firm focused on investments in sports, media and entertainment.

Bluestone Equity Partners LP has collected $300 million from institutional investors for its first fund by capitalizing on established investor relationships, Mr. Sharma said, adding that Bluestone expects to close its first deal this quarter.

The “sports, media and entertainment [industry is] historically a very gated and closely held industry,” Mr. Sharma said. “We plan to leverage our blue-chip experience and our deep industry ties to not only access highly proprietary deal flow, but to create it as well.”

Joining Mr. Sharma as a partner at Bluestone is Kyle Charters, who led advisory investment bank Inner Circle Sports LLC’s technology and services practice. Walker Brumskine, a former executive from Apollo Global Management Inc. who co-founded investment management firm 127 Wall Holdings LLC, joined as principal, and former Blackstone Inc. analyst Jack Ross joined as associate.

Mr. Sharma led the creation of the NBA’s first minor league as well as its first international league consulting business unit. At IMG he expanded the company’s professional basketball, soccer and cricket properties in key emerging markets and also expanded its international media rights business. Along the way, he worked with former NBA Commissioner David Stern and current Commissioner Adam Silver, as well as IMG top executive Ted Forstmann, a private-equity pioneer who died in 2011, and his successor Mike Dolan.

“The tangential benefit of that was to build relationships” on a global basis, Mr. Sharma said.

New York-based Bluestone targets controlling and minority investments in established companies around the world, Mr. Sharma said. In addition to sports teams or leagues, Bluestone can also back ancillary businesses, such as event and venue management or production services companies.

“Generationally and culturally, we’re at an inflection point,” Mr. Sharma said. “You see a massive amount of disruption with respect to media distribution and consumption. You see a massive disruption even in terms of the demographics…there is a shift in attitudes towards things like regulated gambling.”

Bluestone joins a growing community of sports and entertainment-focused private investment firms that have launched in recent years. Last year, firms that were founded to target such deals include Velocity Capital Management and Dynasty Equity Partners Management. More established private markets firms, including Ares Management Corp. , are also launching funds dedicated to such deals.

Meanwhile, more private-equity investors are partnering with sports and entertainment celebrities to capitalize on their clout and connections. Last year, reality television star Kim Kardashian founded a private-equity firm focused on consumer and media businesses with Jay Sammons, a former partner at Carlyle Group Inc., and former National Football League quarterback Eli Manning joined Brand Velocity Group as a partner.

“In the last few years, there has been a lot of interest and even a significant activity in the sports, media and entertainment investment space, but it’s still early days for it as an asset class,” Mr. Sharma said.

About Bluestone Equity Partners

Headquartered in New York City, Bluestone Equity Partners is a private equity firm harnessing a unique combination of blue-chip business and investing experience, coupled with deep industry ties, to forge highly strategic capital partnerships with established Sports, Media & Entertainment businesses and properties. Led by Founder & Managing Partner Bobby Sharma, Bluestone partners with exceptional management teams and rights-holders seeking growth and scale on a global basis.

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