He might be young, brash and wealthy. But Jonathan Blue also is misunderstood.

On Tuesday, Blue, chairman and managing partner of Louisville-based private investment firm Blue Equity LLC, opened his presentation to the Association for Corporate Growth, Kentucky with a clarification rather than an introduction.

“I’m not a sports agent. I never was,” he said. “And I don’t own Iron Quarter,” referring to the long-delayed, controversial downtown development owned by his brother, Todd Blue.

Those are two questions he’s asked most frequently around Louisville, Jonathan Blue said.

Then Blue launched into a wide-ranging, detailed discussion of Blue Equity’s wide-ranging private investment strategies, including possibly creating an international venture fund. (See related item below.)

The ACG is a nonprofit group for people in the finance, mergers and acquisitions industries.

And he addressed the sale of Blue Entertainment Sports Television to Paris, France-based multinational Lagardere. The transaction closed earlier this week. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Blue told the ACG audience that though the deal has closed, he will stay involved with BEST, helping Lagardere find other acquisitions. “We’re paid to do that. That’s the plan.”

Lagardere had $17 billion in 2009 revenue from investments that include aircraft firms and the publisher with the rights to the “Twilight” series of vampire novels.

What the conglomerate lacked, Blue said, was a U.S. sports presence, noting that 77 players in the NBA come from countries outside the United States.

“They were looking for a worldwide platform and entry into the United States. It was the perfect jigsaw puzzle acquisition for them,” providing a missing piece of business that fits with Lagardere’s Europe-based sports business.

Not just sports contracts

Blue told attendees of the ACG monthly meeting that though BEST is a dominant firm in the sports and entertainment world, Louisvillians never have understood that the firm goes far beyond athletes’ contracts with sports teams.

Only one third of its revenue comes from representation, he said. On television, BEST negotiated to sell rights to the U.S. Tennis Association events internationally.

BEST also has an events piece, owning Kick It, a touring soccer clinic that goes to about 50 cities, and an ice-skating show.

“Why are we different?” Blue said. “We integrated all aspects — marketing, events, players’ contracts. BEST isn’t just about (negotiating) athletes’ contracts with sports teams.”

Parent company also diverse

That diversification extends to Blue Equity overall, he added, and the firm has investments in health care, media, financial services, real estate and even ice.

Through an intermediary, Blue Equity was able to buy two family-owned ice businesses at opposite ends of Jamaica.

The owners of the companies “absolutely despised each other,” Blue said.

The combined companies now are Island Ice & Beverage Co. Ltd.

“The margins are tremendous,” Blue said.

Over the years, Blue conceded, outside observers have wondered about the crazy-quilt of Blue Equity investments.
“In the past, we used to be criticized for being too diverse. But in the recession, diversity really helped us,” he said.


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