Past and Present Athletes Taking Ownership Stakes in Sports Franchises
Updated: Jan 14, 2021
A common characteristic of our favorite athletes is that they are fun to watch, and it’s fair to say they are engaging because they have a love of the game. When in the prime of their career, athletes are obsessed with becoming better at their craft. The longer they remain in their respective league, they become exposed to how their organizations operate in front of the camera and behind the scenes. If their business sense is respected, they may even be included in decisions that affect the club. The longer these athletes with entrepreneurial ambitions stay in the sport, another type of fascination can emerge: the thrill of owning a team.
One athlete whose passion for their sport grew beyond their involvement as a player is Michael Jordan. With an already impressive personal brand, Jordan went a step further when he became an investor in the Charlotte Hornets (then the Charlotte Bobcats) in 2006 and then the controlling owner of the franchise in 2010. As the current owner today, Jordan is continuing to enjoy his role as owner and reap the financial benefits that this high-level position provides.
NBA All-Star and Champion, Kevin Durant, took an alternative route when he made headlines becoming a community partner with a Major League Soccer team. Just last month, the Philadelphia Union announced that Durant had purchased a five percent ownership stake in the Philadelphia Union. Durant has the option to purchase an additional five percent in the near future. The deal includes an expanded partnership with Durant and sports business executive Rich Kleiman’s Thirty Five Ventures. It’ll help to grow the Union’s footprint in the overall sports world and achieve community outreach in conjunction with the Kevin Durant Charity Foundation (KDCF).
When Union owner, Jay Sugarman, was asked about the partnership with Durant, he responded: “Kevin brings us unique perspectives as a person, as a champion, and as a sports icon. His work with the Kevin Durant Charity Foundation has shown he has a community-first mindset that resonates with our club’s DNA. Combined with his competitive drive and a forward-thinking mentality, we believe Kevin adds a key piece in reaching our ambitions for the club.”
Soccer continues to be an investing hotspot after it was announced this month that women’s professional soccer would be brought to Los Angeles in 2022. The ownership group includes Hollywood stars and more than a dozen former members of the U.S. Women’s National Team. Led by venture capitalists, Alexis Ohanian and Kara Nortman, and entrepreneur, Julie Uhrman, the ownership group also includes actresses Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, America Ferrera, Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria, and Natalie Portman, as well as talk show host Lilly Singh. In total, there are 14 former USWNT players who are also part of the group. Examples include Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Lauren Holiday, and Abby Wambach.
Los Angeles had long been seen as a landing spot for the NWSL, which is now in its eighth year of competition and does not have a team based in California. "We've long sought the right partner in LA considering the NWSL fanbase that already exists in the region and the massive interest in women's soccer in general," NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said in a statement. "Those factors, along with an incredible ownership group make this an ideal situation and we couldn't be more thrilled to move forward."
Given the changing landscape of sports that is constantly evolving, it will be interesting to see which star will take a chance at ownership next.