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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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Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).

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Omicron's blitz around the world has underscored the need for a new arsenal of COVID vaccines and therapeutics, experts say — and that may require an effort akin to Operation Warp Speed 2.0.

Why it matters: The virus will continue to evolve, potentially in a way that further escapes vaccine protection, and the best way to prevent more global disruptions to everyday life is to have tools ready to combat whatever comes next.

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Microsoft is pitching investors and regulators that its $68 billion Activision Blizzard deal is all about the metaverse, that nebulous buzzword taking the tech world by storm.

What they're saying: By my colleague Stephen Totilo's count, Nadella used the word "metaverse" at least five times in his conference call discussing the deal. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick mentioned the metaverse four times, while Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer used the term twice.