The WNBA has announced a $75 million capital raise — the largest-ever for a women’s sports property.
Source: Front Office Sports
ANALYSIS: The report adds that those who invested will each receive an equity stake in the league, the first time the WNBA has ever done such a raise. The league has seen tremendous growth in recent years. This past year's WNBA Finals averaged 548,000 viewers on television, up 63% from 2020.
Official press release:
NEW YORK – The WNBA announced today the largest-ever capital raise for a women’s sports property, featuring new investors and existing WNBA and NBA owners. This groundbreaking transaction is part of a multi-faceted financial growth strategy designed to generate new revenue through increased investment in priority areas as part of the league’s long-term business transformation.
Proceeds from this transaction are expected to be used for brand elevation and marketing; globalization of the WNBA; innovation, digital, and growth of consumer touchpoints; and human capital and operational optimization as part of an overall effort to address some of the league’s obstacles to growth and generating new revenue.
“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. “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.”
As part of its ongoing commitment to empowering women athletes and women’s sports, NIKE, Inc., one of the league’s current premier partners and inaugural WNBA Changemaker, has made a significant equity investment in the WNBA. Nike’s investment further deepens the company’s support for women’s basketball and enables the WNBA to elevate the marketing and storytelling of WNBA athletes.
“Women’s sport is one of the best investments, with great potential to impact and grow the next era of basketball,” said Sonja Henning, VP, North America League Partnerships, NIKE, Inc. “Nike has always been more than a sponsor with the WNBA – we’re a strategic partner. And we’re proud to be part of a movement to redefine the future of sport for a new generation – for WNBA players, fans and girls.”
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.
“Susan and I are excited about the growth opportunity in women’s sports and specifically the WNBA,” said Michael Dell, CEO, Dell Technologies and minority investor, San Antonio Spurs. “We also are proud to support a league that is committed to empowerment, and we look forward to supporting Cathy and all the accomplished and diverse women of the WNBA to make a positive impact in the world.”
Both the WNBA and NBA Boards of Governors approved the transaction. Allen & Company LLC served as the financial advisor for the transaction.
The 2021 season marked the WNBA’s 25th anniversary and featured new partnerships with Google, the latest WNBA Changemaker, as well as Amazon Prime Video, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Coinbase. The companies joined a growing lineup of partners led by WNBA Changemakers AT&T, Deloitte and NIKE, Inc. The league also introduced an innovative in-season competition – the WNBA Commissioner’s Cup – which will continue with the upcoming 2022 season.
About the WNBA
Having concluded its historic 25th season in 2021, the WNBA is a bold, progressive basketball league that stands for the power of women. Featuring 12 teams, the W is a unique sports property that combines competition and entertainment with a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and social responsibility. Through its world-class athletes, the in-game fan experience, TV and digital broadcasts, digital and social content and community outreach programs, the league celebrates and elevates the game of basketball and the culture around it.
In 2020, the WNBA and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) signed a groundbreaking eight-year CBA that charts a new course for women’s basketball – and women’s sports overall – with a focus on increased player compensation, improvements to the player experience, expanded career development opportunities and resources specifically tailored to the female professional athlete. Key elements of the agreement are supported through the league’s new platform, WNBA Changemakers, with AT&T, the WNBA’s Marquee Partner and inaugural Changemaker, as well as fellow inaugural Changemakers Deloitte and NIKE, Inc, and the recent addition of Google. During the 2020 season, the WNBA and WNBPA launched the WNBA Justice Movement forming the Social Justice Council with the mission of being a driving force of necessary change and continuing conversations about race and voting rights, among other important societal issues.