Arena, Harlequin sign new investment deal

Sir Martin Broughton's investment vehicle takes equity stake.
Harlequin and Arena International are responsible for the temporary infrastructure at events such as the Abu Dhabi Triathlon.
Harlequin and Arena International are responsible for the temporary infrastructure at events such as the Abu Dhabi Triathlon.

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The Arena Group and Harlequin Marquees and Event Services, today announced the completion of a new equity fundraising of AED 100 million in a partnership deal with the specialist sports fund, Sports Investment Partners (SIP) and independent international private equity firm, MML Capital Partners. The two investing companies will together take a significant minority stake in the leading international event services company, supporting the existing management structure with its plans to develop the global business.

The deal comes at the start of a busy year for Arena who will be designing and delivering overlay services to create a number of iconic venues for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Arena Group CEO Greg Lawless plans to use this new investment as a catalyst for further global expansion. Said Mr Lawless, “It gives us great flexibility at a time when we are looking to expand beyond our current bases in the UK, Portugal, Abu Dhabi, Singapore and Dubai to reach excellent new opportunities in the Far East.”

The deal provides Arena and Harlequin with both equity and expertise as Matthew Wheeler, a senior figure in the sports marketing industry and Managing Partner of SIP, takes over as Chairman. A former professional cricketer with Northants CCC, Mr Wheeler also sits on the board of the Professional Cricket Association as a non executive director. He has chaired six private equity-backed businesses in the sports and media sector in the past ten years, from investment through to successful exit.

Said Mr Wheeler, “The Arena Group is a highly visible, successful company, synonymous with world-class performance and the very best in sporting endeavour. Growth continues to be steady in the global sports market and Arena is now well positioned to be part of that global growth.” Bal Johal and Luke Jones led the deal for MML. Bal joins the Arena board with MML taking a significant minority interest. He said, “In Arena we quickly recognised an essential and high quality service, led by a strong management team in a fast growing sector. The way this has come together, with SIP’s support and involvement, makes this a very exciting opportunity.”

Paul Berger, Arena International and Harlequin CEO confirmed; “Harlequin will be looking to leverage both investment partners’ significant experience and expertise to help develop and deliver ambitious international growth strategies for our business.”

Alongside Matthew Wheeler, the Arena Group’s new armoury of industry expertise includes Sir Martin Broughton, who as former Chairman of Liverpool FC oversaw its sale to New England Sports Ventures for £300m. John Connolly, former Global Chairman of Deloitte and Senior Partner and Chief Executive of Deloitte UK is another of five SIP Managing Partners.

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