Despite their incredible winning streak, the Harlem Globetrotters have been sold.
Herschend Family Entertainment, the largest family-owned operator of theme parks in the United States, has acquired Harlem Globetrotters International, the corporate shell for the world-famous basketball team, from Shamrock Capital Advisors and its minority owners.
Shamrock, a private equity firm co-founded in 1978 by Roy Disney, acquired an 80 percent stake in the team in 2005. Mannie Jackson and other members of the company’s management also held stakes.
The Globetrotters were founded in 1926, and over the past 88 years have played on every continent save Antarctica. Legendary alums include Wilt Chamberlain, Connie Hawkins and Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton.
Though its most famous players suited up decades ago, the Globetrotters have excelled financially in recent years, increasing revenue by 30 percent since 2008. The team set new highs in sponsorships, merchandise sales and live-event revenue last year.
Shamrock Partner Michael LaSalle said the sale was a case of “right place, right time” since HFE is the perfect partner, but described it as “bittersweet” given the joy of being involved with the Globeterotters.
HFE has acquired the team as a complement to its existing business. It owns 26 attractions across 10 states, including the Dolly Parton-themed Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country in Tennessee, Wild Adventures Theme Park in Georgia and aquariums in New Jersey and Kentucky.
“For nearly nine decades, the Harlem Globetrotters have had a rich tradition of creating family memories through sports and entertainment. The team is coming off its best touring year ever, and this acquisition helps HFE diversify into a new but complementary business,” Joel Manby, HFE’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “Becoming the new owners of this legendary team is a natural step as HFE continues to develop wholesome, immersive entertainment that parents can trust — entertainment that brings families closer together.”