It’s 8am and Monaco’s upscale Le Méridien Beach Plaza is a typical sports industry scene: a pastry-strewn breakfast buffet, a steady thrum of backslaps and pleasantries, persistent chatter punctuated by laughter and the occasional clink of cutlery.
Day two of Sportel is dawning and the who’s who of the sports media world - or at least those staying in this particular high-end hotel - are lining their stomachs before another glut of meetings and networking. Some are already talking business in hushed voices; others enjoy a brief moment of respite alone, sipping coffee as the early morning sun floods through a sea-facing wall of floor-to-ceiling windows.
Perched at a table near the exit to a busy outdoor terrace - a prime vantage point from which to see and be seen - George Pyne surveys the restaurant. He’s here not for Sportel per se but for Deltatre management meetings, having flown in from New York City the previous evening. He’s relaxed, if a little jaded by jetlag, and judging by the regular hellos and handshakes that come his way, there are more than a few old acquaintances in the vicinity.
“I’m 53,” he smiles languidly. “If you hang around long enough and you’re a good person, survival is underrated and undervalued. I’ve been around for a while and I’m kind of a known commodity, and obviously I grew up in America and I know a lot of people. I know a lot of people outside of America, too, obviously, but I think what we’ve done with Deltatre wouldn’t be a bad thing to replicate.”
Bruin acquired Deltatre in June of 2016 - almost exactly 30 years after the company’s formation in Turin, Italy, where its headquarters remain to this day. Deltatre, which at the time employed around 500 people worldwide, had several suitors in the mix. For chief executive and co-founder Giampiero Rinaudo, there were three key reasons to sell to Bruin: “access to the American market”; “the ability to act fast, which in sport is very important”; and because Pyne’s firm is “not subject to the typical investment cycle of equity funds”.
“Of course, at some point there will be an exit but they are not looking short-term,” adds the Italian, who, along with fellow co-founder Luca Marini, retained a 25 per cent stake in Deltatre following Bruin’s acquisition.
“Another thing that Bruin brought to us was discipline in the numbers,” he continues. “Before, we were myself and my partner, we had been good growing the business, but at the end of the year if we made ten per cent more or ten per cent less of EBITDA, it was not changing our life. In Bruin, of course, they have to respond to their investors and that’s healthy for the companies.”
Yet Bruin’s commitment to allowing Deltatre to maintain its autonomy, and retain the essence of its culture and identity and good old-fashioned Italian instinct, was all part of the appeal.
“That was one of my conditions after 30 years of running the company,” laughs Rinaudo. “But they are shareholders and the job of shareholders is to check how things are going and, of course, if you want the money you have to explain why you need this investment. We are very aligned. I’m a strong believer in alignment of interests, and of course we want to increase the value of the company.”
That imperative is unquestioned, of course, and indeed Bruin’s injection of capital has already accelerated Deltatre’s growth, not only in North America, where Pyne says the company has now developed a “meaningful” business having opened three offices and secured major clients, but into other key sectors.
As a global leader in building digital solutions, Deltatre has long dined out on the media industry’s appetite for developing streaming services and OTT platforms, not to mention the growing consumers trend towards digital and mobile viewing, greater content customisation, and more personalised user experiences.
In sport, it has built its business on creating bespoke, often costly digital experiences for top-level rights holders including Fifa, Uefa, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Premier League, National Football League (NFL) and the ATP. In future, however, Rinaudo says the focus will be to standardise and expand its solutions to those lower down the pecking order, such as niche sports or leagues and clubs with more modest budgets, as well as other forms of entertainment.
Last year’s acquisition of London-based Massive Interactive, which was naturally facilitated by Bruin and could be worth as much as US$127 million in cash and other provisions, is evidence of that strategy in action. The combined company now comprises nearly 1,000 full-time staff across 18 offices worldwide, with the acquisition seen as a way to couple Massive’s expertise in user experience with Deltatre’s video streaming capabilities, thereby shortening the time it takes to get new OTT services to market.
“This was one of the goals when we partnered with Bruin,” says Rinaudo, speaking shortly before the Massive acquisition was made public in early November. “It’s not easy to find a good company that complements us, but organic growth is starting to become difficult.”
Our 'Inside Bruin Sports Capital' series is being published throughout this week. Click to read parts one, two, and three. The full series can be found here.