When news leaked that the Pac-12 would sell a minority stake in the conference to private equity investors at a valuation between $500 million and $750 million, it was met with heavy skepticism. For one, Pac-12 Networks has struggled financially since launching in 2012. And the conference's reputation has been damaged by officiating scandals. The football product has also struggled. And no investor has ever struck a deal to back a college conference. 

But that apparently hasn't kept potential backers away.

The Pac-12 has already received multiple bids from private investors of at least $750 million, based on a valuation of $5 billion and up, according to Sports Business Daily. And its plan is to reportedly spend the next couple of months working with The Raine Group, which it hired in January as an investment advisor, to ultimately decide whether to accept one of the offers. 

The move is meant to infuse cash into a conference that sent out roughly $31 million to each of its member institutions during the last reported past fiscal year, trailing the SEC payout of $43.7 million and the Big Ten's record $54 million distributed to each school. And if it comes to fruition, it would be a huge boost for conference commissioner Larry Scott, who has received heaps of criticism as the league has struggled to keep pace with other Power 5 conferences on and off the field under his watch. 

Under the proposed deal, the Pac-12 would spin off its broadcast rights, sponsorships, distribution agreements and more into a holding company dubbed "Pac-12 NewCo," with the conference retaining managerial control. The private investor(s) would own a minority stake in the holding company and potentially exit by either selling said stake or the Pac-12 taking it public. In the meantime, the investor(s) would be in line to nab a significant payout when the conference strikes its next television deal, which is expected in 2024. In its last TV deal, the Pac-12 inked a 12-year contract with ESPN and Fox in 2011 worth around $3 billion, which at the time was the largest Tier 1 broadcast deal in history.

Whether or not the Pac-12 ultimately reigns in a private equity firm to help turn around its fortunes remains unclear. Scott and co. will need to weigh whether the short-term need for cash for its member schools would outweigh splitting the profits when they strike a media rights deal in five years. Scott himself has expressed some doubt, saying in his most recent interview that he wasn't sure where the conference would wind up. But in the end, it's probably not going to be an easy decision. 

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Related read: 4 private equity investors that could back the Pac-12

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