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Falconhead's Moross confirms purchase of Triathlete, speaks to Slowtwtich

Written by: Dan Empfield
Date: Mon Jan 07 2008

In a press release today New York-based private equity firm Falconhead Capital announced the acquisition of three San Diego-based companies, confirming the story which appeared on Slowtwitch.com's front page on the 19th of December. Elite Racing, Inc. (Carlsbad 5000, Rock & Roll Marathon), La Jolla Holding Group LLC (Triathlete Magazine), and Competitor Publishing, Inc., were acquired, forming a new company called Competitor Group, Inc. (CGI).

David S. Moross, chairman and chief executive officer of Falconhead Capital, was liberally quoted in his company's prepared statement. Though financial elements of the deal were not disclosed, it is widely believed that Elite Racing is the marquis brand and the anchor property. That established, Mr. Moross placed his heaviest emphasis on the online platform CGI hopes to generate — a web presence nascent compared to Triathlete Magazine's robust print publication. "In short, said Mr. Moross, "the formation of Competitor Group, Inc. represents a significant opportunity for Falconhead to leverage CGI’s current assets into the number-one online destination/community for endurance athletes, incorporating authoritative 'insider' content, race results, merchandise and streaming video."

Also mentioned in Falconhead's statement were the leverage opportunities the aggregated companies represent. Mr. Moross spoke to the, "...advertising and sponsorship revenue through the creation of an integrated CGI sales force, and to further expand CGI’s national footprint both organically and through further acquisitions."

The allusion to "further acquisitions" probably refers to events like the Sea Otter Classic, still rumored to be a target of Falconhead's, as well as additional magazines, probably in the running and cycling markets.

I engaged in a Q&A with David Moross earlier today.

SLOWTWITCH: "It's typical for acquiring companies to apply leverages and expertise to the acquired. In particular, Falconhead Capital's background and contacts in television and internet programming will be accretive to that currently in place at Elite Racing and Triathlete. Is programming a significant part of your revenue model, and if so, might we see an expansion of TV and internet coverage at both footrace and multisport events?"

DAVID MOROSS: "TV, I'm not too sure about. Internet, live streaming for our customers and those not yet our customers, yes. We intend to build the world's premier endurance sports website [built upon our current acquisitions], along with other assets we intend to acquire."

SLOWTWITCH: "I'm wondering what it might be like to have a Competitor Group salesman call on me if I'm a large endemic advertiser at, say, a car or financial services company. I imagine an integrated, vertical campaign that attacks the endurance sports participant demographic with opportunities in print, web, on-site and television. Is this offer of one-stop-shopping what advertiser might expect from Competitor Group?"

DAVID MOROSS: "Not just expect, it's what advertisers will demand. The idea of bundling is almost critical in the media world today, where the endemic media buyer can be afforded as many options as possible. By combining them — and branding them — for endemics, we scale not only events but the website, and all the tools we can offer. So yes, if I'm a shoe manufacturer and I'm advertising in Triathlete Magazine, if I'm given a bundled approach to all eighteen of our events, including a world class website, and the magazines will acquire, that makes sense, it becomes a primary driver."

SLOWTWITCH: "In my mind's eye, I can imagine Competitor Group tackling its own online registration for races, magazine subscriptions and renewals, and the like, because of the soft revenues that attend purchases once you have the customer's billing info. Does your strategy include forming your own online registration engine?"

DAVID MOROSS: "Undecided at this stage. Obviously we're very happy with our existing model at Elite Racing [Active.com is Elite Racing's current online registration vendor], but we'll look at every option."

SLOWTWITCH: "Finally, I have an off-topic question. Yours is not a common last name, and I'm wondering whether you're any relation to Jerome Moross, who composed some of my favorite movie scores?"

DAVID MOROSS: [Laughs] "It's a very unusual name, in fact his was the only other Moross I'd ever seen when I Googled my own last name some time ago. But no, as far as I know, there is no relation."

  

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