Edgar Bronfman Jr., the former CEO and chairman of Warner Music Group, is launching media-focused venture capital firm Waverley Capital in partnership with Luminari Capital founder Daniel Leff.
The Waverley team is aiming to raise a debut fund of roughly $100 million, with the overarching mission of increasing media companies’ share of U.S. startup investments — which amounted to just 2 percent in 2016, as first reported by Bloomberg.
Bronfman served as CEO of WMG from 2004 to 2011, then as the label’s chairman from 2011 to 2012. He currently serves as managing partner at Accretive LLC — a position he took on in 2002 after selling his family business, Seagram Co., to Universal Music Group’s parent company Vivendi — and plans to divide his time roughly equally between Accretive and Waverley moving forward.
Digital video-focused Luminari Capital, whose backers include U.K. satellite TV giant Sky UK, has a growing track record in sports: previous investments include video streaming service FuboTV, which hosts over 70 sports-centric channels including those under Fox and NBC, and sports publication The Athletic. According to Leff, many of Luminari’s backers will likely join the Waverley team as investors and the new firm is actively hiring outside investment professionals as well.
The announcement arrives amidst a constantly shifting, unbundling media landscape, in which “consumers demand content in new and different forms that map best to their evolving consumption behavior,” says Leff.
Yet, on the other hand, there seems to be wavering confidence in the wider media-tech market, with VC funding for media startups hitting a four-year low last year. Even Leff himself admitted to the dog-eat-dog mentality pervading online media: “there has never been a greater degree of competition for consumers’ time and attention, and a handful of colossal technology platforms are garnering increasing influence,” he says.
It’s also unclear what role, if any, music will play in Waverley’s investment portfolio, as investors in the music-tech space struggle to free themselves from an historical lack of innovation and risk-taking.
Bronfman continues a long legacy of record label and management executives venturing into the tech and VC space — Interscope's Jimmy Iovine and Epic Records' Scott Seviour moving to Apple, Atom Factory's Troy Carter moving to Spotify, 300 Entertainment's Lyor Cohen moving to YouTube and veteran artist managers Guy Oseary and Scooter Braun nurturing tech investments of their own. Perhaps the hope is that as more leaders with an understanding of online music and media take on the role of investor, they will create a more fertile, nimble growth environment for content-focused entrepreneurs.