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WNBA scoops ‘US$75m’ investment to drive global growth

North American basketball league hails largest-ever capital raise for a women’s sports property.

3 February 2022 Ed Dixon

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  • Funds will be used for brand elevation, league globalisation and wider business transformation
  • NBA and WNBA owners take part in capital raise
  • Nike also invests to deepen ties with the league

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has announced the largest-ever capital raise for a women’s sports property.

Multiple reports have valued the investment at US$75 million, which will form part of a ‘multi-faceted’ financial growth strategy designed to generate new revenue through increased spending in priority areas as part of the league’s long-term business transformation.

Investors include US sportswear giant Nike, which is an existing commercial partner of the league, as well as current owners in the WNBA and the National Basketball Association (NBA). These include Joe and Clara Tsai (New York Liberty and Brooklyn Nets), Ted Leonsis (Washington Mystics and Washington Wizards), Micky and Nick Arison (Miami Heat), and Bill Cameron (Dallas Wings). Michael and Susan Dell, who have a minority stake in the San Antonio Spurs, also invested.

Investors outside the two leagues include Linda Henry, an owner of the Boston Red Sox and English soccer club Liverpool alongside her husband John Henry, as well as former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.

The funds will be used for brand elevation and marketing; globalisation of the WNBA; innovation, digital, and growth of consumer touchpoints; and human capital and operational optimisation. The WNBA added that the investment will contribute to an overall effort to address some of the league’s obstacles to growth and generating new revenue.

Investment bank Allen & Company served as the financial advisor for the transaction.

“We are incredibly fortunate to be able to capitalise on the current momentum around women’s sports and are grateful to the investors who have chosen to support the WNBA in an unprecedented way and to our team governors who continue to invest in the players and teams,” said WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert.

“Our strategy is to deploy this capital to continue to drive the league’s brand as a bold, progressive entertainment and media property that embodies diversity, promotes equity, advocates for social justice, and stands for the power of women.

“Having just completed our historic 25th season, with this access to additional capital, we are setting the WNBA up for a successful future and it represents a sign and signal of the future direction of women’s sports as a whole.”

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