Jan 28, 2021 - Economy & Business

NBA signals further interest in private equity funding

a basketball with a money sign on it
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The National Basketball Association is opening the door a little wider for private equity funds, which to date have been largely excluded from investing in its franchises.

Driving the news: The league's board of governors has approved a framework whereby a PE fund could own up to 20% in a single franchise, and stakes in up to five franchises, as first reported by Sportico and confirmed by Axios.

Background: In 2019, the NBA began thinking about creating an investment fund that would buy small equity stakes in a portfolio of teams. Part of the goal was to provide liquidity options for minority owners, while part was to help finance new team purchases (as skyrocketing prices had limited the buyer universe).

  • Then it changed course, essentially giving exclusive purchasing power to Dyal Capital Partners, which set out to raise a $2 billion fund specifically focused on NBA franchise stakes.
  • Dyal hasn't yet held a fund close, although a source says it plans to do so at the end of Q1.

Now the NBA is expanding the universe of potential buyers beyond just Dyal. But there are some caveats. The most significant is that participating funds must be long-dated, or have at least 10 years of investment cycle runway in from of them.

  • That knocks out most active PE funds, but there are several that would qualify. And, of course, new ones could get raised with this in mind.
  • An NBA spokesman declined to comment on this story.

The bottom line: The rules of the game are changing.

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