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The second time was the charm for superagent-turned-mogul Ari Emanuel.
After facing the embarrassment of being forced to pull the initial public offering for Endeavor Group Holdings at the 11th hour in 2019, shares of his entertainment and live events conglomerate debuted Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange with a 5% gain.
Endeavor includes the venerable William Morris Agency and the sports and modeling agency IMG as well as live events as varied as the Professional Bull Riders tour and Miss Universe. Most appealing to investors, the firm is in the process of acquiring 100% of the mixed-martial-arts league UFC, which experienced considerable growth during the pandemic.
Endeavor's leaders Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell, as well as UFC president Dana White, all appeared at the NYSE Thursday morning wearing black masks. Soon after, Endeavor stock began trading at $24 per share, which was the upper end of where it was priced.
With many live events cancelled, Endeavor brought in just $3.5 billion in revenue in 2020, resulting in a net loss of $625.3 million. In pre-pandemic 2019, it brought in $4.6 billion in revenue and recorded a net loss of $530.7 million.
But that did not scare off billionaire tech titans Larry Ellison and Michael Dell, who bought shares in the company, or Elon Musk, who joined the board of directors.
Endeavor was co-founded by Emanuel when he broke away from ICM in 1995. It merged with William Morris Agency in 2009, acquired IMG in 2014, and a stake in UFC in 2016.
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MaC Venture Capital, one of the few majority Black-owned venture firms to focus on increasing the woefully slim number of non-white founders, closed its first $110 million fund.
The two-year-old firm came into being when Cross Culture Ventures, co-founded by Marlon Nichols and Troy Carter, merged with M Ventures. That united Nichols with former Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty; former William Morris Agency talent agent Michael Palank and MACRO founder and CEO Charles D. King, who was the first Black partner at a major Hollywood talent agency.
Their two previous firms had funds in the $20 million range and wrote smaller checks. Now with a bigger vehicle, and more star power, MaC aims to start investing in seed-stage upstarts at the million dollar level – going up to two million in some cases – in return for a 10% stake.
"We haven't had to do anything different from what we were doing before," said Palank. "Now we just get larger stakes in the company and have a louder voice because we are on the board."
Just 2% of VC investment partners identify as Black or Latino and less than 10% of VC-funded companies are led by women or people of color in Southern California, according to PledgeLA.
"Given our varied backgrounds and the different types of communities we're a part of, we're able to see opportunities in places many of our venture colleagues aren't able to see," said Nichols. "That's a superpower that allows us to get into some amazing deals pretty early before they start to become competitive."
MaC founders left to right: Marlon Nichols, Michael Palank, Charles D. King, and Adrian Fenty.Image courtesy of MaC VC
Like many industries, the notoriously clubby world of venture capital faced a reckoning when protests erupted after the killing of George Floyd last year. Investors tripped over themselves to preach the importance of diversity on Twitter or issue feel-good statements. Some firms, including Softbank and Andreessen Horowitz, even launched new funds to focus on diversity but that too seemed more symbolic.
Andreessen's Talent x Opportunity Fund launched with just $2.2 million in donations from partners, a drop in the bucket for a firm with $14 billion under management.
Of the $150 billion in venture funding hauled in by U.S startups last year, only $1 billion went to Black founders, according to Crunchbase.
"There were a lot of things said, but a lot of checks still need to be cashed," said Nichols.
Still, Nichols said the newfound awareness helped attract limited partners to the fund, which include Foot Locker, Inc., Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.
"We have a few major corporations that are investors in our fund that invested in us because we're good at what we do, but also because they recognize that there is a disproportionate amount of funding that goes to people of color," Nichols said. "We've been pleasantly surprised by the attention and the follow through. But make no mistake, there's still a ton more work to do."
This story has been updated to include the fund's new total of $110 million.
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