Sale rumors first surfaced in December, when The Big Lead said the talks were in advanced stages. Vox now reports the deal on the table would see Penn National take a majority stake in Barstool Sports.
Chernin Group, the investment company helmed by former Fox executive Peter Chernin, bought a majority 51% stake in Barstool Sports in 2016. Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy then sold more of his 49% interest to Chernin in 2018 in a sale that reportedly valued the company at $100 million. The deal said to be in the works with Penn National would reportedly value the company at much higher price. The deal could help Penn National expand into online sports betting, leveraging the Barstool Sports brand.
Portnoy confirmed to Vox the company is on the block. “We continue to speak or have spoken with everybody from DraftKings to FanDuel to Stars to PointsBet to Penn to Willam Hill to MGM to Rush Street, etcetera,” he said in a statement. “I think that if we aligned ourselves with one company with a shared vision, that company would have an extraordinary advantage in the race to becoming the leading gambling company in the United States,” added Portnoy.
CEO Erika Nardini earlier told Digiday that the company is “talking to a ton of people” about potential deals, saying Barstool Sports could also be a buyer, although it is “not really looking at M&A in the media space.” Instead, she said it would be a better fit with a gambling company, pointing out Portnoy launched Barstool Sports as a betting newspaper. Among the podcasts in the Barstool Sports lineup is the Barstool Pick Em podcast.
Barstool Sports has become one of the biggest sports podcasters during the past few years. It now has three dozen podcasts, including Pardon My Take and the sex-charged Call Her Daddy. According to Podtrac it had 8.2 million unique monthly podcast listeners in the U.S. in December. That put it ahead of ESPN, which had 6.9 million unique listeners to its roster of sports podcasts, which is nearly twice as large. That has helped Barstool Sports sell more than 30,000 subscriptions. Nardini told Digiday that more than a third of those came within three days of launching the Barstool Gold annual plan. She said annual plans now make up 60% of their subscriber base. Among the benefits is getting ad-free podcast content.