Sapphire Ventures Recruits Fox Sports Vet Michael Spirito as Partner

Sapphire Ventures announced that Michael Spirito will be joining the firm as a partner in October. In his return to the venture capital industry, Michael will be making direct investments for Sapphire Ventures in companies spanning sports, media, and entertainment — areas where he brings deep operating and investment expertise.

Michael will join Sapphire Ventures from 21st Century Fox, where he led business development and digital media for the 22 Fox Sports Regional Networks, including the Yankee Entertainment and Sports (YES) Network. While at YES, which he joined in 2006, Michael led numerous initiatives including launching the first in-market live-game streaming product in professional sports in 2009, and forming partnerships with entities such as Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and Google. Fox acquired 80% of YES in 2014 in a transaction valued at several billion dollars.

“Michael’s experience, fit and proven ability as an investor and operator in digital media and sports make him an excellent addition to the Sapphire team,” says Nino Marakovic, CEO and managing director at Sapphire Ventures. “I look forward to Michael joining Sapphire and becoming a key contributor to our direct investment strategy in the sports, media, and entertainment sectors.”

“I am excited to return to venture capital and help Sapphire Ventures scale its portfolio of companies that are disrupting the digital consumer experience,” says Spirito. “The sports media universe is rapidly evolving, and I look forward to working alongside the talented investment team at Sapphire to identify and support the next generation of entrepreneurs creating disruptive technology businesses in this attractive space.”

A graduate of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Amherst College, Michael was a founding member of Time Warner Ventures in 2000, and earlier worked in the media and telecommunications group at Credit Suisse. He has served as an early stage investor in and advisor to companies such as Bonobos, Trunk Club, Tecovas, Billie, RotoQL, Overtime Sports, Drone Racing League, Boom, and Cargo.

Since 2011, Sapphire Ventures has seen 53 of its companies exit the portfolio, including 13 exits in the last 18 months — Alfresco (acquired by THL Partners), Alteryx, BlackDuck (acquired by Synopsys), CloudHealth Technologies (acquired by VMware), Cyphort (acquired by Juniper Networks), DocuSign, Inkling (acquired by Marlin Equity Partners), Integral Ad Science (acquired by Vista Equity Partners), Lithium (acquired by Vista), MuleSoft, (acquired by Salesforce), Newgen Software, SAVO (acquired by Seismic), and Socrata (acquired by Tyler Technologies).

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