Big bucks and big names — from former Disney streaming exec Kevin Mayer to Shaquille O’Neal — are fueling the SPAC boom
SPACs are clearly having a moment, with a new blank check company backed by either a celebrity or Hollywood power player — sometimes, both — emerging seemingly on a daily basis.
If you’re having a hard time keeping track, don’t sweat it, because there have been a lot of media and entertainment-focused SPACs that’ve launched in the last few months. And whether it’s Shaquille O’Neal teaming up with former Disney and TikTok executive Kevin Mayer, pop star Ciara, or ex-Netflix VP Cindy Holland and ex-Hulu CEO Randy Freer entering the space, there have been plenty of heavy hitters getting in on the SPAC action.
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Here are 10 large, well-financed SPACs to keep an eye on in 2021:
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1. Horizon Acquisition Corp. II
Key People: Former Netflix Original Content VP Cindy Holland
Funds: $500 million
It didn’t take long for Holland to land on her feet. Only a few months after leaving Netflix following nearly two decades of service, Holland in November joined the board of Horizon Acquisition Corp. II, a SPAC that raised $500 million to target media and entertainment companies. The SPAC was established last summer by Eldridge Industries CEO Todd Boehly and shouldn’t be confused with Horizon Acquisition Corp, another Boehly-led SPAC focused on financial services companies. HAC II, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange using the ticker symbol HZON.U, has increased about 9% since its shares debuted at $10 back in October.
2 and 3. Forest Road Acquisition Corp. I and II
Key People: Former Disney and TikTok executive Kevin Mayer, Shaquille O’Neal, former Disney executive Tom Staggs
Funds: $600 million
With not one but two SPACs going, the group behind Forest Road is worth keeping an eye on. The team, led by ex-Disney CFO Staggs and Mayer, who ran Disney’s streaming business before becoming TikTok’s chief executive for a few months last year, has a bevy of media industry knowledge to fall back on. Bringing NBA Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal on board as a special advisor doesn’t hurt, either, both from a publicity standpoint, as well as an investment standpoint. (Shaq famously invested in Google years ago and also made a nice chunk of change when Ring was sold to Amazon.)
Forest Road Acquisition raised $300 million last month when it hit the New York Stock Exchange, and its share price has jumped about 30% since then — indicating investors are betting on the group making a score in the tech, media and telecommunications space. That early success may have been a driving force in Forest Road’s management doubling down with another SPAC last week, complete with Mayer, O’Neal and Staggs reprising their roles. The new SPAC is also looking to raise $300 million when it goes public later this year and is also focused on tech, media and telecom opportunities.
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4. Bright Lights Acquisition Corp.
Key people: Former Dick Clark Productions CEO Mike Mahan, pop star Ciara Wilson, film producer Peter Guber, Endeavor President Mark Shapiro
Funds: $200 million
Bright Lights combines Hollywood expertise with a bit of star power. This blank-check company features former Dick Clark CEO (and current vice chairman) Mahan in charge, alongside several other DCP veterans and a board that features Mandalay Group CEO Guber, Wilson, and Endeavor President Mark Shapiro. Bright Lights raised $200 million in January when it started trading for $10 per share on Nasdaq. (It’s now trading about 8% higher.) Their game plan is to find a company in the media, sports or entertainment space valued between $500 million and $1.5 billion that is looking to go public.
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5. Group Nine Acquisition Corp.
Key people: Group Nine CEO Ben Lerer
Funds: $200 million
Since launching in 2016, Group Nine has been a digital media staple, with its videos from NowThis and The Dodo, among other media brands, routinely pulling in millions of views. Now, its new blank check company, aptly dubbed Group Nine Acquisition Corp., is looking to facilitate a new acquisition. This isn’t completely foreign to Group Nine, considering it spent $300 million to acquire PopSugar in late 2019. The SPAC went public earlier this year and is trading about 5% higher than its $10 per share debut, but no deals have been announced, yet.
6. Advancit Acquisition Group
Key people: Former Hulu CEO Randy Freer, former AOL CEO Jonathan Miller
Funds: Looking to raise $350 million
Despite a handful of veteran media executives in charge, this SPAC is keeping its options open for now. Advancit Acquisition Group, currently aiming to raise $350 million, said in a recent SEC filing it would “not be limited to a particular industry or geographic region in our identification and acquisition of a target company.” Still, looking at Advancit’s DNA, there’s good reason to believe it’ll look to make a splash in the entertainment and media space. Former Hulu CEO Freer — who ran the streaming service from 2017 to early 2020 — last Friday was named the company’s CEO, and ex-AOL chief executive Miller has already been named chairman of the board. Advancit Capital co-founder Jason Ostheimer will also serve as president, and that may provide another clue AAG is interested in the media space; Advancit Capital has previously invested in a number of digital media companies, including The Athletic, Masterclass, Wondery and Headspace.
7. Marquee Raine Group Corp.
Key people: The Raine Group, Chicago Cubs owner Tom Rickets
Funds: $325 million
Here’s an interesting combo: The Raine Group, the tech and media-focused merchant bank, teaming up with Rickets and other members of the team’s brass. The goal, the group said in its filing with the SEC last year, is to target “interactive entertainment and games, real money gaming, digital media, sports and sports-enabled assets, health and wellness, out-of-home and live entertainment, audio content and podcasting, technology.” That’s a wide umbrella, and could mean MRG is looking at anything from daily fantasy and gaming companies — think DraftKings, a company The Raine Group is already tied to, but smaller — to more generic entertainment plays. The Raine Group has had its fair share of digital media investments, including Cheddar, Soundcloud and Vice, so it’ll be worth watching how this blank check firm, with plenty of cash, decides to spend its money.
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8. Music Acquisition Corp.
Key people: Former Geffen Records President Neil Jacobson, media executive and “The Office” executive producer Ben Silverman
Funds: $230 million
Jacobson, the former head of Geffen Records, has teamed up with several other media executives, including producer and Hollywood executive Silverman, to get the ball rolling on this music-focused SPAC. Music Acquisition Corp. recently hit the New York Stock Exchange and raised $230 million. That money will be used to target a number of music assets, including copyrights, audio content, social apps similar to TikTok and Triller, and even “royalty-free sample libraries” for production music, according to MAC’s prospectus.
9. Slam Corp.
Key People: Baseball legend Alex Rodriguez
Funds: $500 million
Here’s another recently-announced SPAC that’s looking to make waves in the “sports, media, entertainment, health and wellness, and consumer technology sectors.” Again, that’s a wide range of options, but Slam Corp. certainly looks formidable, no matter which direction it chooses. The SPAC hit Nasdaq on Tuesday, helping former Yankees star and current CEO Rodriguez raise $500 million in the process
10. Soaring Eagle Acquisition
Key People: Former MGM CEO Harry Sloan
Funds: $1.5 billion
This one is shrouded in a bit of mystery. Soaring Eagle Acquisition hasn’t said what kind of companies or industries it’ll target, although based on its leadership, a media deal could easily be in the cards. Sloan, who ran MGM from 2005 to 2009, is leading the charge here with Jeff Sagansky and Eli Baker; together, the trio is managing members of Eagle Equity Partners LLC and has plenty of SPAC experience already, with this being the groups’ seventh blank check venture. (Perhaps most notably, the team was behind DraftKings going public last year.)
One thing is for sure: Soaring Eagle will have plenty of cash to work with. The SPAC is set to raise $1.5 billion when it hits Nasdaq on Friday, Soaring Eagle announced on Wednesday.
Tech reporter • email@example.com • @SeanB44