A recently closed WNBA capital raise totals $75 million, as the league attracts some of the biggest names in the sports-business world as investors.
The investors are a mix of existing WNBA and NBA owners, former WNBA and NBA players, sports investors outside the basketball world, and high-profile players in the investment world. The initial investors are: Micky and Nick Arison, Carnival Corporation and Miami HEAT; Bill Cameron, CEO and President, American Fidelity, Dallas Wings; Swin Cash, WNBA legend and current New Orleans Pelicans Vice-President of Basketball Operations and Team Development; Baron Davis, NBA legend; Michael and Susan Dell, Dell Technologies and minority investors, San Antonio Spurs; Karen Finerman, CEO and Co-Founder, Metropolitan Capital Advisors; Pau Gasol, NBA legend and Member of the IOC Athletes’ Commission; Ginny Gilder, Seattle Storm; Dee Haslam and Whitney Johnson, Haslam Sports Group, Cleveland Browns and Columbus Crew; Linda Henry, Boston Globe, Boston Red Sox, Liverpool Football Club; Brad Hilsabeck, former CEO, Grantham, Mayo Van Otterloo & Co. and minority investor, Dallas Wings; Eric Holoman, President and CEO, EquiTrust Life Insurance, Los Angeles Sparks; Mark Walter, CEO, Guggenheim Partners, Los Angeles Sparks; Laurene Powell Jobs, Founder and President, Emerson Collective; Ted Leonsis, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Washington Mystics and Washington Wizards; James and Heather Murren, former Chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International; NIKE, Inc; Condoleezza Rice, Stanford University and 66th US Secretary of State; Angela Ruggiero, CEO and Co-Founder, Sports Innovation Lab; Herb and Steve Simon, Fever Basketball, LLC; and Joe and Clara Tsai, New York Liberty and Brooklyn Nets.
Besides the capital raise, NIKE has made a significant equity investment in the league.
According to an WNBA press release, proceed from the capital raise will be used for brand elevation and marketing; globalization of the WNBA; innovation, digital, and growth of consumer touchpoints; and human capital and operational optimization aimed at growth and potential expansion. Basically, the money will be used to fund league awareness and branding, with an additional goal of raising player pay and travel experience, such as a shift to chartered flights. And then there’s the issue of expansion; an Oakland investment group has worked to bring a team to Oakland Arena, for example.
Existing ownership in the WNBA–half controlled by the 30 NBA teams, half by the 12 WNBA teams–will be diluted as a result of the new raise.
“We are incredibly fortunate to be able to capitalize 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 via press release. “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 25t 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.”