ESPN sells majority stake in X and Winter X Games to private equity firm MSP Sports Capital

ESPN sold a majority stake in the X and Winter X Olympics on Wednesday, marking the end of a nearly three-decade-long chapter in which the network helped push snowboards, snowboards, and skateboards. and other action sports to the margins and become mainstream.

Terms of sale to MSP Sports Capital, a sports-focused private equity firm that also has stakes in McLaren Racing and several European teams, have not been announced. ESPN will remain a minority partner on the events and will continue to televise them.

This season’s X Winter Olympics are scheduled to take place January 27-29 in Aspen, Colorado.

Created in an era when ESPN still craved programming of all kinds (ESPN2 was originally designed specifically to appeal to a younger audience), Winter X Games has long been a leader in skateboarding. boards on the snow. It has a reputation for building the best halfpipes and sloppy style courses as well as finding new events (think, skiing) and niches ( think, Knuckle Huck ) to keep action sports ahead.

Besides three Olympic titles, Shaun White’s 15 wins and 23 overall medals at the X and Winter X Olympics are his top sporting achievements. Almost all of the sport’s biggest names – Chloe Kim, Jamie Anderson, Danny Davis, Marc McMorris, etc. – have won multiple titles in Aspen. Even in an age where the Olympics overshadow most things, few would argue that a great skier’s résumé is incomplete without some victory in Aspen.

The first X Games were held in 1995 – a summer event called “Adventure Games” that focused on skateboarding. Tony Hawk was one of the gold medal winners at the opening ceremony. ESPN added a winter version in 1997 that ultimately eclipsed its summer sibling in many ways, thanks in large part to skiing being included in the Olympic program a year later.

Building courses, finding judges, dealing with athlete health and safety and scheduling concerts, are increasingly becoming a major attraction for events with more than 1,000 employees. By selling a majority stake while still investing in the business, ESPN will leave that part of the effort but will still focus on its core mission – sports broadcasting.

“We’re proud of what we’ve created alongside employees and athletes in our nearly 30 years of hosting X events and content,” said Jimmy Pitaro, president of ESPN and Sports Content. world-class.

Joining will be MSP, which will take on the production of contests and is expected to reshape digital offerings for an event geared toward a younger, content-hungry audience.

Steve Flisler, who became the new CEO of X Games.

Flisler has served as an executive at Twitch, a streaming service best known for its ability to stream video games, and has also taken a leadership position at NBCUniversal.

He said the mission at X Games was to create “a content engine that gives fans more ways to interact and connect with athlete stories.”

“X Games athletes are first and foremost competitors but will increasingly become one of the most influential content creators globally,” said Flisler.

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