ESPN Dumps the X Games On a Billionaire

by The Editors on October 26, 2022

After decades of spending money on their action sporting franchise, ESPN has finally found an exit to the X Games by selling “a majority interest” in the brand to a private equity firm called MSP Sports Capital (owners of McLaren Racing and more.)

“We are bringing our deep-rooted sports expertise to continue the progression and excitement around athletes, competition, fans, and X Games partners,” said Jahm Najafi, Founder and Chairman, MSP Sports Capital, and Founder and CEO, The Najafi Companies.

MSP founder Jahm Najafi, a billionaire who (aside from owning a large piece of the Phoenix Suns basketball team and entertainment company STX Entertainment,) also has investment dealings through Najafi Companies with Shaun Neff. Remember his first brand Neff Headwear?

We’ve never understood the calculus behind PE/VCs interest in action sports. Rarely have the numbers worked for anyone (Jamie Salter is an obvious exception), yet the “sexiness” of boardsports seems to keep the money managers flocking like vultures. They’ve enlisted Tony Hawk as “a brand steward,” and that’s not a bad first move. But the only real synergy the X Games brand ever had was ESPN’s somewhat aging TV/Internet distribution system, so it will be interesting to see what MSP does with the brand outside of that. Najafi is obviously a business genius, so this should be good.

For the official word from MSP, please follow the jump.


MSP Sports Capital – led by sports industry veterans Jeff Moorad and Jahm Najafi – aims to reimagine the beloved action sports property with unique fan experiences, an expanded calendar, and increased access to the world’s premier athletes.

X Games, founded by ESPN, Inc. in 1995, pioneered action sports entertainment by introducing the world audience to televised high stakes competition. This globally recognized brand has long provided premier athletes a platform to showcase their record-breaking talents across disciplines such as skiing, snowboarding, Moto X, BMX freestyle, and skateboarding. MSP Sports Capital’s investment will continue to invigorate X Games events and increase appeal to a digitally native audience seeking expanded access to athletes and community-driven content.

“We’re proud of what we’ve created with our employees and the athletes over nearly 30 years of world-class X Games events and content,” said Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content. “We now look forward to an exciting next chapter with MSP Sports Capital, which has a proven track record of excellence in sports and a dynamic vision for the continued growth and progression of the industry-leading action sports brand.”

X Games will host X Games Aspen 2023 live from Aspen, Colorado, from January 27-29. Fans will continue to be able to view their favorite action sports competitions on ESPN and ABC networks in the U.S.

“We are bringing our deep-rooted sports expertise to continue the progression and excitement around athletes, competition, fans, and X Games partners,” said Jahm Najafi, Founder and Chairman, MSP Sports Capital, and Founder and CEO, The Najafi Companies.

MSP Sports Capital will focus on infusing new energy to the brand, prioritizing premiere athlete and fan experiences, and investing in technologies to launch the brand into the future. At the helm of bringing this new vision to life will be Steven Flisler, CEO X Games, who comes with a deep entertainment background in competition, storytelling, and technology.

Flisler recently served as the Vice President of Original Content at Twitch and Executive Producer of Twitch Rivals since 2018, and previously held various leadership positions across NBCUniversal where he produced iconic live productions and other globally recognized special events for over a decade. As the new CEO of X Games, Flisler is impassioned to evolve X Games into an even more cherished brand among fans and athletes alike that will continue to redefine what is possible across both action sports and culture.

Legendary athlete Tony Hawk will also join the X Games investor group as a brand steward to help bridge the X Games legacy to the future. 

“Skateboarding is part of my DNA and I support a community where change and advances in action sports is happening on a daily basis,” said Tony Hawk, 10x X Games Gold Medalist. “Being part of the advisory board for X Games is an extension of my decades of competing and much more forgiving to the body, and I look forward to being constantly inspired by so many incredible athletes.”

About MSP Sports Capital
MSP Sports Capital is a global private equity firm that invests in teams, leagues, and other businesses in the sports ecosystem. The firm pursues influential positions in mature sports companies and focuses on creating value and driving differentiated returns. MSP Sports Capital was founded by veteran investor-operators, Jeff Moorad and Jahm Najafi, whose expertise span the world’s largest sports leagues, including MLB, NBA, NFL, F1, and European football. MSP Sports Capital is headquartered in New York. For more information, visit

About ESPN, Inc.
ESPN, Inc., is the world’s leading multinational, multimedia sports entertainment brand, featuring an unmatched portfolio of sports assets.  It is comprised of eight U.S. 24-hour television networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes, Longhorn Network, SEC Network and the ACC Network; five with HD simulcast services – ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS and ESPN Deportes). Other businesses include direct-to-consumer video service ESPN+, ESPN Audio (broadcast, satellite, digital, podcasts), an array of digital services ( and many other sites, ESPN App, fantasy games and more), multi-screen ESPN3, endeavors on every continent around the world across media including more than 40 networks, espnW, consumer products and ESPN Events.  Based in Bristol, Conn., ESPN is 80 percent owned by ABC, Inc., which is an indirect subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. Hearst holds a 20 percent interest in ESPN. 

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