Eight seconds... a two-thousand-pound bull... a 150-pound human... and millions of dollars in a spectacular payoff -- what is it? The PBR, the Professional Bull Riders tour, one of the fastest growing spectator sports in the United States.
It's growing so fast that it drew the attention of the Spire private equity firm of New York City, which, just a few weeks ago, bought a majority stake in this 15-year-old sports franchise. The unannounced majority buy-in is worth millions to the original 'stock' holders in the PBR. And that's where the American Dream meets a stadium full of dirt.
In 1992, 20 bull riders, the then-'stars' of the regular rodeo circuit decided the time was ripe for a 'new' sports circuit. What they really wanted was a way to make a living -- something rodeo wasn't giving anyone. They would work 'regular' jobs during the week -- and ride in the rodeo on the weekend, for very little money -- sometimes not enough to get home.
The 20 bull riders threw a thousand bucks apiece into the pot and struck out on their own -- securing small venues and riding for small purses -- but at least it was their own.
From that start, the PBR has grown to 23 million in prize and sponsorship money -- 35 tour stops around the country -- packing houses from Billings to Madison Square Garden. With over 1.7 million in attendance and a cable TV deal on Versus, the PBR negotiated for two years with various investment groups all interested in getting a piece of some of the most loyal fans in sports, and a shot at expanding the PBR overseas to Australia, and South America for starters.
Spire won. And those 20 original 'investors' -- 14 of whom are left -- all walked away with millions, signing the deal 15 years to the day that they struck out on their own.
The American Dream.
'Mike On America' is in St. Louis this week. We'll keep you posted.
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