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WNBA raises $75 million in first-ever funding spherical, valuing league at $1 billion

The WNBA on Thursday introduced it accomplished its first-ever capital increase, bringing in a number of big-name traders together with Nike and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, because the league appears to speed up development.

The Girls’s Nationwide Basketball Affiliation raised $75 million from traders, which additionally embrace Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell and Laurene Powell Jobs, philanthropist and the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Following the funding, the valuation of the WNBA and its groups is $1 billion, based on a supply with information of the deal.

“We have all seen the reviews that lower than 5% of all sports activities media protection and fewer than 1% of all sponsorship {dollars} go to ladies’s sports activities, so entry to this capital … whenever you’re making an attempt to develop a enterprise is admittedly going to assist us transfer the needle,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert stated in an interview Thursday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

The league in a press launch referred to as it “the largest-ever capital increase for a ladies’s sports activities property.”

The WNBA’s fund-raising spherical is the most recent indication of the momentum and investor attention towards ladies’s sports activities at each the skilled and collegiate level. It additionally comes roughly three months earlier than the 12-team league is about to start its twenty sixth season, in Might. Free company is underway now.

The league’s milestone twenty fifth season, which concluded in October, noticed a big soar in TV viewership, based on Disney-owned ESPN, which broadcasts some common season video games and your complete postseason.

Common-season viewership elevated 49% in contrast with the 2020 season and 24% in contrast with 2019 earlier than the Covid pandemic, according to ESPN. The postseason and WNBA Finals both saw their highest viewership figures in years.

LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 27: WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert addresses the media earlier than the AT&T WNBA All-Star Sport 2019 on July 27, 2019 on the Mandalay Bay Occasions Heart in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Brian Babineau | Nationwide Basketball Affiliation | Getty Pictures

Engelbert, former CEO of consulting large Deloitte, stated the WNBA plans to make use of its money in a wide range of methods to assist the league set up an financial mannequin that is “sustainable for the longer term.”

“We now have a lot alternative to globalize the sport, enlargement,” stated Engelbert, who has led the WNBA since July 2019. “We now have alternative to explode our digital footprint and take into consideration what direct to client means.”

“It is actually quite a lot of development initiatives,” Engelbert added, together with sports activities betting as extra states across the U.S. legalize it and “advertising our stars into family names each right here within the U.S. and globally.”

Nike, which has sponsored the WNBA’s jerseys since 2018, made “a big fairness funding” within the league, the discharge press launch stated.

Different noteworthy traders embrace Carnival Chairman Micky Arison, who additionally owns the NBA’s Miami Warmth; Clara Wu Tsai and Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai, house owners of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and WNBA’s New York Liberty; and three-time WNBA champion Swin Money, who now’s vice chairman of basketball operations for the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.

Money, who performed within the WNBA from 2002 to 2016, stated her participation as an investor additionally alerts help for present gamers as they additional set up the league.

“Exterior traders are nice, and that is necessary, however the ladies who’ve additionally helped construct this league , it is necessary for us to face alongside this subsequent technology,” stated Money, who appeared on “Squawk Field” alongside Engelbert.

Metropolitan Capital Advisors co-founder and CEO Karen Finerman, an everyday dealer on CNBC’s “Fast Money,” additionally participated within the WNBA’s funding spherical.

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