NBA commissioner David Stern said someone from outside North America probably will become the first foreign owner of one of his league's...
NBA commissioner David Stern said someone from outside North America probably will become the first foreign owner of one of his league’s existing teams in the next 18-24 months.
Investors from China and the Persian Gulf have asked about buying teams that weren’t for sale, Stern said in an interview. No sale is in the works, he added.
U.S. teams are attractive to overseas investors partly because of the decline in value of the dollar, which has lost against 15 of 16 most actively traded currencies in the past five years. It has fallen 48 percent against the euro in that period, with one euro now worth $1.53.
“Our valuations are high,” Stern said in an interview. “But from their perspective, given the increased valuation of foreign currency, they are getting cheaper.”
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The Seattle Mariners, owned by the U.S. arm of Kyoto, Japan-based video-game maker Nintendo, are the only team in the four major North American sports held by an overseas concern.
Stern said he is basing his prediction on interest from overseas investors, the inevitability of team sales and the league’s willingness to accept foreign ownership. The falling dollar, as well as basketball’s popularity in China and the NBA’s plan to place five expansion teams in Europe within a decade, also play a role.
In January, Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN and four Chinese investors agreed to pay $253 million for an 11 percent stake in the NBA’s operations in that country.
The group was composed of Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing, Bank of China, China Merchants Bank and Legend Holdings. Ka-Shing is the richest man in Asia, with a $23 billion fortune, according to Forbes magazine. NBA China will have the right to create teams in that country and own all broadcasting and merchandising rights.
“Investors are looking at all of our activities — media, digital activities, marketing partnerships with leading corporations, real estate through arena development on a global scale,” Stern said. “We want to talk to these people when money is cheap and see if they think sports franchises are something worth investing in.”