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NBA allowing sovereign wealth funds to speculate in teams: What it means and why it’s dangerous


The NBA has once more expanded the group of potential investors allowed to take stakes in its franchises, a league source confirmed to The Athletic on Thursday. Most notably, sovereign wealth funds can now buy a share of an NBA team. Sportico was the primary to report the news. Here’s what you might want to know:

  • The league passed this expansion of potential institutional investors during a recent vote by NBA owners.
  • The NBA was the primary U.S. league to permit private equity funds to take stakes in its teams and now it’ll allow much more institutional investors to assume passive investment.
  • Together with sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and university endowments will now be allowed to purchase shares in NBA teams.
  • The NBA retains the flexibility to disclaim any interested investor and can scrutinize any fund before it decides whether to permit them to purchase into an NBA team.

“The NBA Board of Governors recently decided to permit direct, passive investments in NBA teams by institutional investors,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass told The Athletic. “All such investments are subject to league review and NBA Board approval.”

What it means for the NBA

That is one other method to widen the pool of potential owners of NBA teams. Franchise valuations have skyrocketed during the last decade, which made it more costly to purchase right into a team, let alone take a controlling ownership stake. It caused issues for some minority owners who sought to sell their shares but found a scarcity of people that desired to pay potentially tons of of tens of millions of dollars for silent, passive stakes.

This enables organizations flush with resources to speculate in NBA teams over the long run. Some universities maintain endowments valued at upwards of $20 billion, based on U.S. News & World Report. Harvard’s endowment is valued at $53 billion, while Yale’s sits at greater than $42 billion, and Stanford and Princeton each were not less than $37 billion at the tip of the 2021 fiscal yr, based on the outlet.

Private equity funds like Arctos Sports Partners and Dyal Homecourt bought up stakes in several teams over the previous few years after the league modified its rules in 2020. Arctos has stakes within the Warriors, Kings and Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the 76ers. Dyal has taken stakes within the Suns, Kings and Hawks.

This offers the league much more potential buyers for its teams, though none of them can take a controlling ownership stake in a team. Private equity funds are limited to not more than a 20 percent stake in a single individual team. The fund firms can only come clean with a complete of 30 percent of a team.

Why it’s dangerous for the NBA

While pension funds or university endowments should allow the NBA to herald relatively quiet investors, the league risks controversy if it allows a sovereign wealth fund into its group of homeowners.

While sovereign wealth funds can maintain enormous riches — some are valued within the tons of of billions of dollars — they bring about great risk for his or her partners. Some, like ones related to autocratic countries, have been alleged for use to whitewash their countries’ reputations internationally through investments.

The English Premier League faced a storm of criticism when a Saudi Arabian investment fund bought Newcastle United last yr. The soccer league was accused of aiding Saudi Arabia’s attempt at sportswashing its international repute.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has spoken publicly concerning the league’s try to maximize its business interests while also coping with countries where human rights have been curtailed or cut off for big groups of its own people. In April, Silver discussed the league’s decision to carry exhibition games within the United Arab Emirates, which has been condemned by international organizations for its repressive anti-LGBTQ laws.

“It’s a good query,” he said. “We proceed to consider that using sports, using basketball, we are able to improve people’s lives through sport and that, as Nelson Mandela famously said, sport can change the world. I feel that we bring our games everywhere in the world.

“I mean, a part of why we decide certain markets is in fact economics. There’s absolute confidence about that. It’s enormously expensive and resource-driven to bring teams all over the world. We also wish to try bringing our games to places we haven’t been before, and the Middle East is one in all those markets.

“We have a look at many various aspects when it comes to how we travel, bring our games. But our ultimate goal is to bring our games to in all places all over the world. There are lines we draw, but we’re an American company and frequently we allow those lines to be drawn by our government. Whoever happens to be our administration gives us direction on where they think it’s appropriate for us to operate and never operate.”

Required reading

(Photo: David Dow / NBAE via Getty Images)

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