Jan 10, 2022 - Economy & Business

Eli Manning joins private equity firm Brand Velocity Partners

A football near a $100 themed endzone

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Eli Manning is the latest retired NFL great to join the world of private equity, this morning announcing that he's joined Brand Velocity Partners. Not as a part-time adviser or conference glad-hander, but as an actual partner.

Why it matters: BVP, founded in 2019 to buy consumer brand companies, has interest in expanding into sports investing, including the growing business of buying up pro teams. Manning lends the firm extra credibility and contacts in that space and says it will be his primary job.

  • "People don't realize that I do the 'Monday Night Football' gig from my house," Manning explains. "So unless BVP is planning meetings between 8:15 to 11:30 on Monday nights, I'm pretty much wide open."

Behind the scenes: Manning first got to know BVP when his family (including brother Peyton and father Archie) invested in a Louisiana grill maker called BBQGuys, which BVP bought in late 2020.

  • He previously had been introduced to several venture capitalists, but was interested in learning what he calls "private equity 101," and began sitting in on BVP meetings.
  • Manning adds that he was especially taken with a BVP program whereby the firm's partners allocate 10% of their carried interest to portfolio company employees.

SPAC stuff: BVP had planned to quickly flip BBQGuys to an unaffiliated SPAC called Velocity Acquisition Corp. for nearly $1 billion, but the deal soured over supply chain issues and was terminated in November.

  • BVP, which operates as a fundless sponsor, also filed for its own SPAC last March, on which Manning was listed as an adviser, but firm co-founder Drew Sheinman (who has his own sports industry background) says the effort is currently on hold.

Big picture: A few other retired quarterbacks are in private equity, including ESPN colleague Steve Young (who co-founded HGGC) and fellow ex-Giant Dave Brown (Moelis & Co.).

  • Also worth noting that the Patriots are going to the playoffs and the Giants are going off a cliff, as Manning acknowledged in our call.

The bottom line: The road to private equity almost always used to go through banks or consulting firms. It now has a much wider range of starting points.

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