Strengthening its sports financing team, BankBoston Corp. this week announced an alliance with Game Plan LLC, a sports investment banking boutique.
The bank made an undisclosed investment in Game Plan, which provides consulting, advisory, and financing services to professional sports teams, leagues, and facilities.
Game Plan will remain an independent entity but will operate out of BankBoston's Federal Street headquarters.
Sports "will always have an ongoing stream of opportu-nities-ownership changes and teams, generational transfers, recapitalizations, and stadium financing. They're all opportunities for a provider of financial services," said Paul Hogan, vice chairman for corporate banking at BankBoston.
"The important thing is to make sure we have the right kind of experience available to us, because sports is very specialized," Mr. Hogan said.
"There are a lot of details around such things as player contracts, tax implications, league rules, and so forth."
BankBoston has relationships with three sports franchises: the New England Patriots, the Dallas Stars, and the Philadelphia Eagles.
But the bank has yet to break into the major leagues of sports lending.
Game Plan was founded in 1995 by Robert Caporale, a sports and entertainment attorney, and Randy Vataha, a former wide receiver for the New England Patriots. The firm recently played a role in the sale of 50% of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and is providing consulting services to the All American Football League.
As professional sports teams and privately funded stadiums multiply, sports has become more attractive to lenders. Many banks have only entered the business in recent years.
"I hate to say it, but there's probably room for new entrants," in the sports finance niche, said Patrick F. McAuliffe, executive vice president in the sports lending group at Fleet Financial Group Inc.
For example, football and baseball teams once typically shared a single municipal stadium, but teams now expect to have their own stadiums built with private funds, Mr. McAuliffe said.
BankBoston chose to be partners with Game Plan rather than build a sports specialization and to tap into Game Plan's established industry relationships.
Sports is an industry "where we don't have the expertise we have in some other industries," Mr. Hogan said.
"We can look at a team and finance the cash flows and so forth, but the real understanding of the business, and also, quite frankly, the contacts, are very valuable to us," he added.
Greg Clark, managing director in the bank's diversified finance and real estate group, will manage BankBoston's side of the partnership.
The bank has been investing in its capital markets and investment banking capabilities, and this month announced a reorganization of its investment banking group. The move into sports finance is expected to bring in not just lending but other fee-based investment banking business.
"Our biggest interest is in helping to use this to expand those capabilities," Mr. Hogan said.
He said the company does not have plans to replicate the partnership arrangement for other niche industries.