Former Walt Disney Co. streaming chief Kevin Mayer and former chief operating officer Thomas Staggs have teamed up with basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal on a special purpose acquisition company, set on raising $250 million to buy a company in the telecom, media and technology space.
Forest Road Acquisition Corp. is led by CEO Keith Horn, a long-time financial executive and chief financial officer Salil Mehta, a former Disney EVP. Joining them are Staggs, who will serve as chairman of the SPAC’s strategic advisory committee, Mayer and O’Neal, who will serve as strategic advisers.
Mayer, who was in charge of Disney’s streaming efforts -- including Disney Plus -- left the company in May to become CEO of internet icon TikTok. He resigned from that position in August. Staggs left Disney in 2016 after serving as chief financial officer and chief operating officer of the entertainment giant.
Former Los Angeles Laker and NBA Hall of Famer O’Neal currently serves as an NBA commentator for cable network TNT and is a long-time investor.
Forest Road is just the latest in what has been an impressive string of SPACs launched this year. According to SPACInsider, 138 SPACs were created in 2020, raising $53.8 billion. Recent SPAC deals include CuriosityStream, which merged with Software Acquisitions Group in August. SPACs led by former MGM chairman Harry Sloan and former CBS Entertainment president Jeff Sagansky have raised more than $3 billion and merged with companies like sports betting giant DraftKings.
In its prospectus, Forest Road said its team is uniquely positioned to find opportunities in the TMT space.
Other advisers include civil rights activist and Bounce TV co-founder Martin Luther King III; TV and film producer Mark Burg (the Saw franchise and Two and a Half Men); and former entertainment executive and TV and film producer Peter Schlessel.
“We believe that our team’s distinguished and long-term track record of sourcing, acquiring, and building next-generation media and entertainment platforms, along with other investments and operational experience in consumer-facing industries, will provide us with differentiated consumer insights and sourcing opportunities,” Forest Road said in its prospectus.
Forest Road added that it sees opportunities in the media space as the industry continues to shaft toward streaming distribution. The rising number of streaming video service providers and demand for premium content also presents opportunities.
“We believe that media and entertainment is undergoing rapid and aggressive technology-induced change, resulting in new monetization opportunities and secular growth as opportunities to reach consumers expand, new entrants seek to gain market share, and the “old guard” adapts to the evolving needs of today’s consumers,” Forest Road said. “We believe that our team’s experience in building and executing strategies that combine capabilities and expertise in consumer preferences and technology/product development will differentiate our ability to source a successful partner.”
While Forest Road will focus on entertainment targets, another SPAC launched Friday by Atlanta Falcons minority owner Alan Kestenbaum will hone in opportunities in the sports arena including teams and regional sports networks.
Kestenbaum has joined forces with two top sports investors to form Sports Ventures Acquisition Corp. (SVAC) and raise about $200 million.
Among the possible targets listed in the SVAC prospectus, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Oct. 8, are U.S. sports teams, European soccer clubs, rugby, esports and cricket teams. The SPAC also listed regional sports networks, sports media rights and as possible interests.
In the media and entertainment fields, SVAC will eye film and television production companies, in the U.S. and private companies in the sports media and entertainment field, including television and film production and be headed by Kestenbaum as CEO. He holds a minority interest in the NFL Atlanta Falcons, and is currently CEO of StelCo Holdings, one of the largest steel companies in Canada. His partners include Inner Circle Sports founder Rob Tilliss and GlassBridge Enterprises CEO Daniel Strauss.
The sports SPAC field also is getting increasingly crowded. Earlier this year former Goldman Sachs executive and YES Network investor Gerry Cardinale launched RedBall Acquisitions with Oakland A’s EVP of baseball operations Billy Beane, raising about $575 million. RedBall is reportedly looking to buy an English Premier League team. Earlier this month, Sports Entertainment Acquisition Corp., created by several former NFL executives, raised about $400 million and are seeking potential targets in the sports, entertainment and technology industries.
Michael Farrell is senior content producer — finance.
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