Apr 8, 2022 - Business

Ryman Hospitality's "endless" opportunities

A 2021 performance at the Gand Ole Opry.
A 2021 performance at the Grand Ole Opry. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

Following a decade of investment in music venues and country music content, Ryman Hospitality announced a partnership with NBCUniversal this week.

  • As part of the deal, investment firm Atairos and its partner NBCUniversal purchased a 30% stake in Opry Entertainment Group, the entertainment arm of Ryman Hospitality. The initial equity investment was $293 million.
  • Ryman chairman and CEO Colin Reed tells Axios "the opportunities are endless" due to the expansion of the company's entertainment division.

Why it matters: The partnership with NBCUniversal positions Ryman to attract more international tourists to Nashville while giving a global platform to developing country music artists.

What he's saying: "We're a relatively small octopus, but NBCUniversal is a massive octopus with all these tentacles," Reed says.

  • "For instance, one of the assets that falls under the full ownership of NBCUniversal is Sky, which is the largest satellite carrier in northern Europe. So they have a platform that, if we can figure out how to take our content and put it on that platform, we can communicate to tens of millions of more international customers."

Be smart: Ryman invested in upgrades and renovations to its stable of Nashville venues — the Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry and the Wildhorse Saloon — in the last decade. It's also close to finalizing the purchase of the Austin hotel and entertainment complex Block 21.

  • Beginning in 2018, the company added a slate of country music venues in partnership with singer-songwriter Blake Shelton called Ole Red.
  • Ryman also invested heavily in original content by helping produce the ABC show "Nashville" and partnering to launch the media platform Circle.

Between the lines: The deal with NBCUniversal and Atairos came together after multiple companies expressed an interest in Opry Entertainment Group.

  • "When we met with [the potential investment groups], we told them, 'We're not here talking about money. We're here talking about how you, the investor coming in, can help grow our business, but also how you can help maintain the incredible integrity of this business and what it stands for, and how important it is to the city of Nashville,' " Reed says.
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