November 28, 2023

Patricof Co. and more than 50 of its current and former athlete clients, including Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce and golfer Michelle Wie West, invested in sports-education company IMG Academy.

The Patricof investment was made alongside private equity firm BPEA EQT, which purchased IMG Academy in partnership with Nord Anglia Education for $1.25 billion including debt earlier this year, executives said. The size of the investment wasn’t disclosed.

“I have a few teammates who are IMG Academy alums, so I am very familiar with the high level of resources that IMG Academy provides its student athletes,” Kelce said in an emailed statement, noting that those resources aren’t limited to the field and include an athletes’ educational development.

In an interview, Patricof Co. founder Mark Patricof said his firm was “incredibly excited” by the company as an investment opportunity in part because of its positive impact on the lives of its student athletes and its thesis that sport, especially soccer and basketball, is a rare common denominator across the globe.

“Not every athlete who goes to IMG is going to play professional sports, but they learn a work ethic, what it means to be part of a team or a community and how sports can be used as a pathway for a bigger, better life,” he said.

Declining to provide expected returns from the firm’s bet on IMG Academy, Patricof said his firm likes to “2x to 3x to 4x our money.”

Several of the group of investing athletes spent a part of their careers at Bradenton, Florida-based IMG Academy, including Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson, Patricof said.

Brent Richard, chief executive officer of IMG Academy, said the Patricof investor group “has the power” to reach and impact its students through programs including on-campus visits discussing financial identity and literacy, image, brand building and responsible use of social media, among other topics.

IMG Academy, which is seeking to expand with the backing of its equity partners, is exploring adding sports including softball after recently launching a girls’ volleyball program, Richard added. It’s also aiming to bolster its digital reach, which now includes more than 100,000 student athletes, which is up from zero four years ago, and compares with roughly 1,500 boarding athletes and 10,000 campers.

“Through digital, we can impact far more lives than we can get into our boarding school,” he said, adding that IMG Academy hopes to reach millions of students, especially through its free and inexpensive products.

Wie West said she’s excited to both invest in IMG Academy and help the next generation of athletes.

“IMG Academy provides an environment where young student athletes are able to flourish both academically and athletically with the top teachers and coaches in their fields guiding them from a young age,” she said in an emailed statement.

In addition to Kelce, Wie West and Jefferson, the Patricof group includes Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, Indiana Pacers small forward Bruce Brown Jr., Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, former Major League Baseball pitcher CC Sabathia, former National Football League wide receiver Victor Cruz and Golden State Warriors head coach and former National Basketball Association player Steve Kerr.