LOS ANGELES, Nov. 7, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Veteran sports and entertainment industry leaders, Happy Walters, Founder and former CEO of Relativity Sports, and Josh Swartz, former President of Relativity Sports, today announced the launch of Catalyst Sports & Media ("Catalyst"). Catalyst will act as a strategic advisor, investor and talent representative with a focus on global growth properties, including basketball, global football and esports. These areas stand to be among the greatest beneficiaries from the shift in sports media consumption away from traditional broadcast television to over-the-top and mobile content delivery.
Catalyst will leverage the combined 40 years of experience of the company's leadership team, all of whom previously worked at the highest levels in sports and entertainment. Happy Walters, who is Co-Founder and CEO of Catalyst, has worked in the industry for twenty-plus years. As Founder and CEO of Relativity Sports, he grew the agency, through acquisitions and aggressive recruiting, into the second largest sports agency in North America. As a certified NBA and NFL player agent, he has represented hundreds of athletes across several international sports leagues. Prior to Relativity, Walters spent 15 years in the music business where he created one of the most successful independent record labels, which he eventually sold to Sony Music in 2003. He has extensive experience in music, film and television, and has actively participated in the esports space since 2012. Additionally, he has been the producer of several hit films, the latest of which, "We're the Millers," grossed over $270M worldwide in 2013.
Walters' Co-Founder, Josh Swartz, is also President of Catalyst and is responsible for the company's esports and investment operations. In his former role as President of Relativity Sports, he managed the day-to-day operations of the company and oversaw each sport specific division, which in total represented over 400 clients. Prior to joining Relatively, Swartz was the COO of Wasserman Media Group, a sports marketing and talent management company, where he managed all strategy and corporate governance matters. Over the course of his career, Swartz has led over 35 acquisitions and has become an experienced investor in early stage sports and media companies.
Walters and Swartz are also joined by Brad Sive, Chief Revenue Officer, responsible for monetizing revenue across Catalyst's verticals, advising brands on strategy, and building Catalyst's content and media offerings. Sive has 20-plus years' experience in media, advertising, marketing and digital business development. Most recently, he spent 11 years as Director of Multimedia Sales and Marketing at ESPN where he managed some of ESPN's largest client portfolios. He has led large scale league negotiations and rights deals with some of the largest Fortune 500 companies, including Taco Bell and Dr. Pepper.
Charles Jackson will also join Catalyst as an Executive Vice President and board member, and will work alongside the team on business development, investment, and recruitment efforts. As an active entrepreneur, Charles has constructed successful deals such as the San Francisco based start-up Nebia, Inc., backed by Apple CEO Tim Cook, and a late stage real estate technology business out of Chicago, SMS-Assist, backed by the Pritzker Group.
"We are very excited to unveil Catalyst today," said Walters. "We have assembled an unbelievable team of individuals who are experts in what they do. We will leverage their experience and leadership in traditional sports and media businesses as we seek to redefine the notion of a 'sports agency,' capitalize on the tectonic shift of media consumption in growth sports such as global football, basketball, and esports, and make significant investments that will fundamentally alter the sports world like never before."
Walters will bring his existing athlete representation practice under the Catalyst umbrella, and will continue to represent an extensive roster of NBA players, including Iman Shumpert, Moe Harkless, Corey Brewer, and A'mare Stoudemire. In the near future, Catalyst will seek to expand this practice into representation of global football stars through the acquisition of established agencies in Europe.
In addition to its sports representation practice, Catalyst has tapped Bryce Blum to lead its esports division. Blum, an Executive Vice President at Catalyst, will maintain his role as a Founding Partner at IME Law, an interactive media and entertainment firm creating future-ready law in esports, AR/VR, film, television, and video games. Bryce heads IME's globally leading esports legal practice, where he represents many of the preeminent teams, casters, streamers, and businesses in the space. Blum performs General Counsel services at Unikrn, Inc., a leader in legal esports betting, with investments from Mark Cuban, Ashton Kutcher, and Binary Capital. He remains a guest contributor for ESPN.
"Happy first identified the opportunity in esports several years ago through our investment in Major League Gaming," said Swartz. "We have spent a considerable part of the past year building a first class team with deep expertise in both endemic esports and more traditional stick and ball sports. Esports represents a vast and still untapped opportunity for marketers to reach an audience that is not consuming sports content the same way it has over the last 25 years."
No sector better represents the shift in media consumption from traditional television to digital mediums than esports. According to esports research firm Newzoo, roughly 115 million people watched esports globally online or in-person at least once a month in 2015, approximately double the number of viewers in 2012. Esports viewership is expected to reach 215 million by 2019. Under Blum's leadership, Catalyst has already begun investing in up-and-coming entities in the space and advising global brands like Dr. Pepper on how to most effectively invest their marketing spend in esports.
"The financial opportunities in the burgeoning world of esports are infinite and we believe we at Catalyst are uniquely positioned to take advantage of them," said Blum. "I am thrilled to be working alongside such sports and media industry powerhouses as Happy, Josh and Brad, and look forward to helping transform the face of the esports world for the betterment of all stakeholders. We are also excited to add other talented, esports industry veterans in the coming months."
As Catalyst continues to grow its esports business, the company will make key investments and partnerships with up-and-coming leaders in the space. Two investments/partnerships already put in place by Catalyst are Super League Gaming, the first and biggest recreational league where gamers compete in movie theaters worldwide, and GumGum, a leading computer vision company that offers innovative advertising and visual intelligence solutions for brands and publishers.
Catalyst Sports & Media is backed by a group of investors led by Bay-area entrepreneur, Jim Fowler.
About Catalyst Sports & Media
Catalyst Sports & Media is a strategic advisor, investor and athlete representative to professional athletes and companies from around the globe connected to basketball, global football and esports. Catalyst was co-founded by veteran sports and entertainment industry leaders, Happy Walters and Josh Swartz. For more information, visit www.catalystsports.com.
SOURCE Catalyst Sports & Media