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Time to figure out the X's and O's as ESPN sells extreme games to investment group

Alycin Bektesh
Aspen Public Radio News
A skier flies through the air at the X Games.

After more than two decades of X Games, ESPN Productions is selling majority interest in the games to MSP Sports Capital, a group that invests in sports leagues, teams and businesses.

That sale includes the Winter X Games, held in January at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen, and the Summer X Games, which are held in locations around the world.

ESPN Productions, which will still maintain a minority, noncontrolling stake in the X Games, will continue to broadcast the X Games on the Disney-owned network.

Aspen Skiing Co. is currently contracted to host the Winter X Games through January 2024 iteration of the extreme skiing and snowboarding competition.

Skico’s senior vice president, John Rigney, said discussions with the team at MSP Sports Capital have been positive so far. The focus right now is on the 2023 games this January.

“I think what we’ve got to do is get to meet each other, get through this year's event and then figure out what the future holds,” Rigney said.

It helps, he said, that some folks who used to work on the X Games with ESPN will now be on the team with MSP Sports Capital.

“I think there's going to be a ton of familiarity,” he said.

But, also, “there are people we have yet to meet, and we'll just kind of take that one step at a time,” Rigney said. “The news is just pretty fresh.”

Steve Flisler, who has been named CEO of the X Games, has leadership experience at NBCUniversal and Twitch, a live-streaming platform that focuses on video games.

(Tim Reed, ESPN’s vice president of programming and acquisitions, was previously in charge of the X Games.)

Flisler said he envisions more access to athletes and more digital experiences in the future.

So, does he see a long-term future for the games in Aspen?

“It's a great question, and the answer is 'Stay tuned,'” Flisler said. “We have so much, so many other things to think about.”

Echoing Rigney's comments, Flissler said the team wants to get through this year’s games first.

When it comes time to think about what’s next, he said he’s “eager” — and he thinks the team is, too — “to really work with the extended Aspen community and think a lot about the future.”

Kaya Williams is the Edlis Neeson Arts and Culture Reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering the vibrant creative and cultural scene in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. She studied journalism and history at Boston University, where she also worked for WBUR, WGBH, The Boston Globe and her beloved college newspaper, The Daily Free Press. Williams joins the team after a stint at The Aspen Times, where she reported on Snowmass Village, education, mental health, food, the ski industry, arts and culture and other general assignment stories.