Chi­nese in­vestor to buy piece of NBA

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By PAUL WELITZKIN in New York paulwelitzkin@chi­nadai­lyusa. com

China’s for­eign direct in­vest­ment in the US may take a sport­ing turn as a Chi­nese in­vestor will re­port­edly pur­chase a share of a Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion fran­chise.

ESPN and the Star Tri­bune of Min­ne­ap­o­lis re­ported on Tues­day that Shanghai in­vestor Lizhang Jiang, who founded the mar­ket­ing com­pany Dou­ble-Edge Sports in China and re­cently ac­quired the Span­ish soc­cer team Granada CF, will take a 5 per­cent stake in the NBA’s Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves. New York real es­tate developer Meyer Or­bach also will be­come a mi­nor­ity owner with a 9.5 per­cent stake, ac­cord­ing to the Star Tri­bune.

Dou­ble-Edge Sports has a his­tory of col­lab­o­ra­tion with the NBA. If ap­proved, Jiang would be­come the first Chi­nese stake­holder in the NBA.

Paul Swan­gard, a pro­fes­sor of sports busi­ness at the Univer­sity of Ore­gon, said Chi­nese in­vest­ment in the NBA is the most log­i­cal short-term sce­nario for the US sports mar­ket­place.

“This will ab­so­lutely set the stage for more Chi­nese in­vest­ment in the fu­ture,” Swan­gard said. “The NBA has been the most ag­gres­sive in build­ing a busi­ness and fan base in China and has built re­la­tion­ships and trust with Chi­nese lead­er­ship in govern­ment and busi­ness. I sus­pect where other leagues would be some­what cau­tious to Chi­nese in­vest­ment, the NBA sees it as a nat­u­ral evo­lu­tion of its glob­al­iza­tion ef­forts.”

“Right now there are more NBA con­sumers in China than there are peo­ple in the US,” David Hol­lan­der, a pro­fes­sor of sports man­age­ment at New York Univer­sity, said in an in­ter­view. “China is es­sen­tial to the cur­rent and fu­ture busi­ness of the NBA.”

Hol­lan­der said that the NBA is more than a pop­u­lar sport in China. “It has be­come a pop cul­tural and life­style phe­nom­e­non to Chi­nese youth,” he said. The NBA was the first Amer­i­can pro­fes­sional sports league to bring its game to China in 2004.

In May, NBA China an­nounced that the first NBA Play­zone, a bas­ket­ball-themed fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment cen­ter, would open in Shanghai this sum­mer. The theme park, cen­trally lo­cated at Xin­tiandi, is de­signed to bring the NBA ex­pe­ri­ence to young Chi­nese fans through a va­ri­ety of bas­ket­ball-in­spired play ar­eas and ac­tiv­i­ties.

“They didn’t open the first theme park in Los An­ge­les, Chicago or even New York. They chose China,” noted Hol­lan­der.

Jiang would not be the first for­eign owner of an NBA team. Rus­sian bil­lion­aire Mikhail Prokhorov owns the Brook­lyn Nets.

The shares in the Tim­ber­wolves are be­ing sold by owner Glen Tay­lor, who last year had been in ne­go­ti­a­tions to sell a 30 per­cent share of the team, but that deal was never com­pleted.

ESPN re­ported that the sale of the 5 per­cent share to Jiang would value the Tim­ber­wolves at about $1 bil­lion. Forbes es­ti­mated Min­nesota’s fran­chise value at $720 mil­lion in its an­nual rank­ings re­leased ear­lier this year.

News re­ports in­di­cate that Jiang is also in­ter­ested in own­ing a share of the Women’s Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion team the Min­nesota Lynx.

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