Silver: No sovereign owners in NBA near future

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Tim BontempsESPNJuly 11, 2023, 9:39 AMRead in 5 minutes

LAS VEGAS–NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Monday that there is no path for a sovereign wealth fund to become a controlling owner of an NBA franchise “in the foreseeable future.”

“I don’t want to say what’s going to happen, but it’s not on the table at this point,” Silver said during a Q&A at the Associated Press sports editors’ convention. “So, regardless of the sovereign wealth fund, it’s very important to us that an individual is in a position to control a team, be accountable to the fans, be accountable to the partners and the players.

“Human presence is very important to us [in charge], and this is independent of the sovereign wealth fund. I think in terms of connecting with the community, connecting with players and other partners within the league. “

The NBA’s current investment rules require the controlling owner of an NBA team to own at least 15% of the franchise, and sovereign wealth funds can only passively invest no more than 5% in the team.

Last month, a Qatari sovereign wealth fund bought a 5% stake in Monumental Sports & Entertainment, acquiring stakes in the NBA’s Washington Wizards, WNBA’s Washington Mystics and NHL’s Washington Capitals. And one of the biggest stories in North American sports in the first half of 2023 is the potential merger of LIV Golf and the PGA Tour, which is funded by Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund.

In recent months, both the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns have surpassed previous records for franchise valuations in recent sales, and in March, Mark Lasry’s stake in the Bucks was acquired for $3.5 billion. In February, Matt Ishbia bought Sands from Robert Thurber for $4 billion. .

That valuation jump in recent years has helped the NBA allow private equity firms and sovereign wealth funds to buy stakes in the team. Mr. Silver said fewer and fewer people could write such checks. But he also argued that such valuations weren’t part of the bubble, saying the underlying economics of sports and the value of raw sports generally justified them.

“I think the bubble represents some sort of irrational valuation,” Silver said. “At least when you look at the revenue the NBA is generating with the league, I think there’s an opportunity for growth, the global market that we’re working on here, and maybe there are some unique aspects to the NBA.” How global the league is.

“I don’t think there is anything unreasonable. Part of the reason we opened up investment opportunities to private equity firms and sovereign wealth funds is, frankly, the lack of disadvantaged individuals. You are in a position to write such a check, especially if you are not going to be the controlling owner of the team.”

To back up his claims, Silver added that he believes these groups see value in endorsing the NBA and the value of live sports.

“Interestingly, these funds are making financial investments in these teams,” he said. “For me, I think the investment community is following the trend and just saying that this is a real growth opportunity.

“So, as you can imagine, I remain very bullish on the opportunities here. When you look at the amount of interest coming from the platform, I think ‘sports programming…that’s why we have a very positive outlook and ultimately those values ​​are driving the market. I think that’s why I’m representing you. “

Silver also mentioned other topics such as:

— Tamika Tremario, Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association, responds to criticism of his decision to suspend J. Morant for 25 games, citing the unlimited nature of the suspension and Morant playing He said he had to come up with a plan to do so. Get back on the court in the best possible shape.

“What I didn’t want was to impose more checkbox requirements on returns,” Silver said. “I wanted to come up with a program that we could both agree on in terms of getting his life in order before he returned to NBA basketball. And as I understand it, he continues to ask for help. I know there’s going to be a lot of pressure.” Having worked with NBA players, especially superstars, I can certainly relate to the pressures he faces.

“But I also feel that this is something we have to take very seriously, especially when it comes to guns and the gun violence we see among the youth in our society. “It’s not about what the regulations should be like.” seems to match.”

–Mr. Silver emphasized again that although the expansion is not certain, at least the possibility is strong.

“It’s not a certainty, but as I said before, I think it’s natural for organizations to grow over time,” Silver said. “Let’s see [Las Vegas]. There is no doubt that there is a lot of interest in Seattle. It’s no secret. Other markets are showing interest.

“And for those listening or reading about this interview, we are not currently involved in that process, which means we are not currently conducting meetings with potential groups. is telling everyone privately: “It’s the same thing. I’m saying publicly that it’s going to be a very open process when we’re ready to look at expansion. But it’s still Not now

–Silver praised the maturity of 2023 No. 1 overall pick Victor Wenbanyama on how he’s handled everything that’s been thrown at him in the past few weeks, saying Wenbanyama will be the San Antonio Spurs’ first pick. He added that he was glad he bounced back from a disappointing first game for the team, and was shut down for the remainder of summer league by the Spurs after a strong run against the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday.

“I had the opportunity to spend time with him in New York around the time of the draft,” Silver said. “I also met him when we played a regular season game in Paris in January and my first reaction was that he’s a great young man. I even want to warn the young man for that. No, because he simply seems to be an incredible person. [He is] He’s mature for his age, worldly, cultured, thoughtful and has the potential to do great things in this league. “

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