NFL’s Saquon Barkley Joins LVMH-Backed Firm in X2 Energy Drink Funding

NFL’s Saquon Barkley Joins LVMH-Backed Firm in X2 Energy Drink Funding

NFL star Saquon Barkley is investing in X2 Performance, an energy drink brand looking to expand into U.S. grocery stores.

Barkley is joining the late-stage funding round along with L Catterton, a private equity firm backed by LVMH and the family of its chairman, Bernard Arnault. The round will total about $16 million, including new funding and debt, with details set to be announced Wednesday. X2 had previously raised almost $29 million, according to data provider PitchBook.

Drinks, especially athletic ones, have become a popular investment for pro sports players. Brands like Bodyarmor, BioSteel and Ready Nutrition have a range of athlete shareholders across sports, while PepsiCo Inc.’s Gatorade brand retains a heap of endorsement deals.

Barkley, a Pro Bowl running back on the New York Giants, joins X2’s existing athlete shareholders including Kawhi Leonard from the NBA and NFL linebacker Lavonte David. They’re all involved in the product development process, when it comes to ingredients and flavors.

X2, founded in 2013, started as an energy shot before expanding into canned and powdered drinks. It has distribution deals with retailers including Amazon, CVS and GNC. The company behind the brand, Advanced Bio Development Inc., last month beefed up its management ranks with senior hires from major beverage companies PepsiCo and Anheuser-Busch InBev’s U.S. division.

Executives will spend the new capital on manufacturing, product development and more hiring, said Chief Executive Officer Mark French. They’ll also put dollars behind marketing efforts as their products expand into more stores, though French declined to name the new partners.

“We have a whole new lineup of product that’ll be coming to market,” he said in an interview. “We’ll be rolling out to the grocery as well as the convenience channels.”

The company declined to comment on its total valuation.

Barkley said in a statement that he was encouraged by the market opportunity and management team behind X2. “I am very selective of brands I endorse and even more selective of companies I choose to invest in,” said the player, who has had endorsement deals with Pepsi, Nike Inc. and Visa Inc.

New X2 board members include former Aramark CEO Eric Foss and Sweetwater Capital’s Gregg Parise. Additional investors include ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Mike Levine from CAA Sports.

L Catterton, meanwhile, has been expanding in consumer-facing businesses this year. In February, it agreed to buy German sandal maker Birkenstock and this month closed the acquisition of pancake and waffle mix label Kodiak Cakes. It has made several fitness investments in the past, including companies like Peloton, Tonal and Hydrow.

French is in talks with other sports figures as he tries to lure more star power to the business. He doesn’t have immediate plans to fully co-brand beverage lines with athletes, but said he’s open to such options.

“Down the road, we would definitely explore things like that,” said French.


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