Global golf entertainment leader Topgolf has acquired social-mobile sports gaming company World Golf Tour (WGT), creating the world’s largest digital golf audience. In conjunction with the acquisition, Topgolf is adding two new divisions and reorganizing its corporate structure with a holding company to support the organization’s rapid growth.
The deal represents a convergence of the offline and online golf experience. WGT is the leading web and mobile golf game, with more than 14 million players worldwide across online, social and mobile platforms. Topgolf has 24 venues worldwide and served 8 million guests in 2015. It is opening venues in Las Vegas and several other key markets in 2016, increasing its projected annual attendance to more than 12 million this year.
WGT Golf is the #1 free golf game on web and mobile with over 450 million virtual rounds played. WGT Golf features 24 famous virtual golf courses including Merion, Pebble Beach and St Andrews. WGT Golf runs the annual Virtual U.S. Open in partnership with the USGA, and has partnered with NBC’s Golf Channel and David Leadbetter. WGT Golf offers a range of virtual golf equipment from leading manufacturers, including Callaway, Cleveland, Nike, Ping, Srixon and TaylorMade.
Based in San Francisco, WGT Media is an innovative sports gaming company with over 20 million players worldwide across online, social and mobile platforms. Its games combine both 2D and 3D technologies to create the world’s most photo-realistic online gaming experience, in both Golf and Baseball, with highly interactive multi-player game play.
Topgolf will further engage guests through in-venue experiences, app enhancements, compelling digital content and the emergence of a global golf entertainment community. WGT fans will not only be able to play the existing games they love, but they will also be able to play Topgolf virtually with new games featuring the signature dartboard-like outfield.
Topgolf, as it is known today in the U.S. and U.K., will operate as it does currently and will continue to be led by CEO Ken May. Topgolf will be one of three divisions held by parent company Topgolf International, Inc., trading as Topgolf Entertainment Group (TEG). TEG will be led by co-chairman and CEO Erik Anderson.
“Topgolf has always signified so much more than a golf entertainment venue,” said Anderson, who last year was recognized as the number one innovator in golf by Golf Inc. magazine. “We envision ourselves as a global sports lifestyle brand where people go to have the best times of their lives with golfing, gaming, food and beverage, music, apparel, digital content and much more. We are excited to extend our brand into new mediums and locations while reimagining the golf experience for our current and prospective fans.”
TEG has formed Topgolf Media to deliver new entertainment options and content for Topgolf guests beyond the four walls of each venue. Topgolf Media will enhance the Topgolf experience through advanced digital media, strategic partnerships and sponsorships. The president of Topgolf Media will be WGT Co-Founder and CEO YuChiang Cheng. All of the current WGT associates will now be employed by Topgolf Media, which is hiring to fill additional critical positions immediately.
“Joining forces with Topgolf means more growth opportunities for our associates, improved service for our fans and additional development resources to advance our games,” Cheng said. “The World Golf Tour team is excited to grow our existing games and build even more engaging content with Topgolf for the future. Topgolf’s popular games will soon be available to play anywhere in the world from the palm of your hand.”
In addition, TEG is forming Topgolf International, which will oversee development abroad so that Topgolf may begin expansion in other countries. Topgolf International will be based in London and run by the company’s former CFO/COO Neil Allen.
TEG headquarters will remain in Dallas, with additional presence in San Francisco, New York, Seattle and London.
Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC acted as financial advisor and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP acted as legal advisor to Topgolf in connection with the acquisition of WGT.
“Our vision statement is, ‘Topgolf is a global sports entertainment community creating the best times of your life,'” said Topgolf CEO Ken May. “These new divisions will allow us to invest in the ‘global’ and ‘entertainment’ parts of our vision. One day, years from now, we’ll find it hard to believe that we were ever just Topgolf.”
Topgolf is a global sports entertainment community creating the best times of your life, with 24 locations serving 8 million guests annually. Players hit golf balls containing computer microchips that track each shot’s accuracy and distance while awarding points for hitting targets on the outfield. Each venue offers an upscale and playful experience, featuring an impressive food and beverage menu, music, games, climate-controlled hitting bays and hundreds of HDTVs. Topgolf also brings fun, interactive experiences to the community through its Topgolf U lessons, leagues, tournaments, KidZone parties and social and corporate events.