Grand Ole Opry Owner Sells Minority Stake for Nearly $300 Million

by Joe Rutland
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The principal owner of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville has reached a deal to sell its minority stake for nearly $300 million. Ryman Hospitality Properties is selling a 30% stake in its entertainment operations to investment firm Atairos and NBCUniversal.

Grand Ole Opry Owner Sells Stake To Atairos, NBCUniversal

The Ryman Hospitality’s Opry Entertainment Group (OEG) unit is valued at nearly $1.4 billion, Variety reports. As part of the deal, Atairos and NBCUniversal will invest approximately $293 million in Opry Entertainment Group. That consists of the weekly “Grand Ole Opry” stage show and media rights. Also, Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium, the legendary Nashville radio station WSM-AM, and a 50% stake in TV channel Circle.

Circle happens to be the streaming home of “Grand Ole Opry.” This deal also calls for Atairos to invest another $30 million in OEG down the road.

Additionally, the deal does amount to a valuation of 17 to 18 times Opry Entertainment Group’s projected 2022 adjusted earnings. That is before interest, taxes, appreciation, and amortization of $80 million-$88 million.

“Grand Ole Opry” debuted in 1925 on WSM. It has played a big role in establishing country music as an American art form right from the Ryman Auditorium. OEG’s vault includes 11,000 hours of “Grand Ole Opry” content, among other shows that adhere to what Ryman executives call the “country lifestyle” audience.

Ryman Hospitality Chairman and CEO Says Company Didn’t Want Outright Sale

Firstly, Circle launched in 2020 as a joint venture with Atlanta-based Gray Television. The channel has broad national distribution as a digital multicast network and as an ad-supporting streaming channel. You can find it on Peacock, Roku, and Samsung TV Plus, among others.

The company was not interested in an outright sale, said Ryman Hospitality chairman and CEO Colin Reed. “We knew there were lots of organizations out there that can help bring the expertise to the table that we lack to help us grow,” Reed said in an interview.

Meanwhile, this agreement with Atairos and NBCUniversal came about after Ryman Hospitality executives began fielding calls from prospective buyers for the assets.

Most importantly, Ryman Hospitality’s core business is running large hotels and convention centers. Through owning the Ryman, executives realized that the company was able to craft unique offerings for artists and fans alike.

In conclusion, Ryman Hospitality did have a motivation to change the structure of the OEG group. The parent firm operates as a real estate investment trust (or a REIT), which uses far different accounting standards for recognizing revenue and earnings than media companies.

Outsider.com