Two veteran sports execs launch firm aiming to invest up to $50M in early-stage companies

Newcastle United’s Alexander Isak in action with Crystal Palace’s Cheick Doucoure.

Lee Smith | Reuters

Two longtime sports executives are launching an investment firm they say will back startups capitalizing on the growing opportunities at the intersection of sports, media and entertainment.

Velocity Capital Management said Tuesday it will invest up to $50 million in early-stage companies with enterprise values of up to $2 billion.

One of Velocity’s co-founders is David Abrams, a co-owner of the English Premier League’s Crystal Palace and a former private equity partner and chief investment officer of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. The other co-founder is Arne Reese, who most recently served as the U.S. CEO of Sportradar, a sports technology business. 

The firm has closed its first investment in Camp NYC, which creates shop-and-play retail experiences based on intellectual property from popular children’s entertainment, such as Disney’s “Mickey & Friends” and “Paw Patrol.”

“Camp is a business that cuts across some of the things we’ve been looking at as a firm,” said Abrams.

The company’s stores, which are a mix of a shopping and interactive experience, are located in New York City, including its flagship location on Fifth Avenue, as well as in New Jersey, California and Texas.

Velocity said it has received investment capital from a variety of sources, including Delaware North, a private company with a portfolio that includes more than 50 entertainment and sports venues, sports betting sites and the NHL’s Boston Bruins. Other investors include Signify Wealth, an investment advisor with NFL clients; Remington Ellis, a sports marketing and talent agency; Bolt Ventures, a family office that invests in sports and entertainment in the U.S. and Europe; and RWN Management, the family office of Apollo Global Management co-founder Mark Rowan.

In an interview, Abrams and Rees said they decided to start Velocity after watching the sports and media ecosystem evolve in such areas as technology, analytics and intellectual property.

“For now we are focused primarily on growth-stage companies,” said Abrams. “These are companies where we will likely take a non-control investment, but want to play an active role as an advisor or on the board.”

Abrams and Rees said their background in investing and sports gave them the confidence to get Velocity off the ground. 

Before joining Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment as its chief investment officer in 2018, Abrams served as a partner at Apollo for much of his career. Harris Blitzer — founded by private equity professionals Josh Harris and David Blitzer — also owns the Prudential Center, the arena where the Devils play, and e-sports organization New Meta Entertainment, among other businesses in the sports world. 

Rees previously guided Sportradar, a data firm that works with sportsbooks, sports federations and media companies, through its IPO in 2021. His resume also includes roles at ESPN and the Union of European Football Associations.

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