NBA forms NBA China; ESPN among backers
The National Basketball Association today formed NBA China, a new entity that will conduct all of the league’s businesses in Greater China. Five strategic partners will invest $253 million to acquire 11% of the company in preferred equity. The strategic partners are: ESPN, Bank of China Group Investment, Legend Holdings Ltd., Li Ka Shing Foundation and China Merchants Investments.
“The opportunity for basketball and the NBA in China is simply extraordinary,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern. “The expertise, resources and shared vision of these immensely successful companies will help us to achieve the potential we see in the region. The strategic investment from these companies will allow us to continue working with the Ministry of Sport and the Chinese Basketball Association to grow our sport and emphasize, in both rural and urban Chinese communities, its contributions to fitness, healthy lifestyle and an appreciation of teamwork.”
Robert A. Iger, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company said, “We are delighted to be participating in this promising venture in what’s become one of The Walt Disney Company’s most important markets. This investment adds to our wide range of exciting businesses in China, from theme parks to retail outlets and from movie-making to mobile games.”
“This strategic investment expands our relationship with the NBA, a key partner who shares our vision of serving fans worldwide,” said George Bodenheimer, President, ESPN.
“I would like to congratulate the NBA on forming NBA China,” said Mr. Li Yuanwei, Chinese Basketball Association Executive Vice President and Secretary General. “With the support of its strategic investors and additional investments in China, I think the NBA and the CBA can expand upon our past cooperation to further develop basketball in China.”
Tim Chen, the former CEO of Microsoft Greater China, joined the NBA on October 15, 2007, and will lead the new entity as its CEO. NBA China will be governed by a Board of Directors that will include representatives of the strategic investors as well as Indiana Pacers owner Herb Simon, Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and NBA executives Adam Silver, Deputy Commissioner and COO, Heidi Ueberroth, President of Global Marketing Partnerships and International Business Operations, and Commissioner Stern.
The NBA has interacted with Chinese basketball for decades, including first hosting the Chinese National team in 1985 and regularly providing training for the Team through U.S. coaching clinics, exhibition matches against NBA Development League teams and an invitation to the 2007 NBA Summer League. The NBA currently has relationships with 51 Chinese telecasters including a partnership of more than 20 years with national broadcaster CCTV, has organized hundreds of touring basketball events for fans and currently maintains 16 marketing partnerships with a combination of Chinese-based corporations and U.S.-based multinationals.
The NBA opened its Hong Kong office in 1992 and currently employs 100 people in four offices in Greater China. NBA.com/China has become the most popular single sports site in China and NBA is consistently the most searched sports term on Baidu.com, the top search engine in China.
More than 500 unique NBA products are available in China at Wal-Mart, Carrefour, adidas stores and many other retail locations. The NBA became the first American sports league to stage games in China in 2004 with the NBA China Games 2004 in Beijing and Shanghai. The league returned this season for NBA China Games 2007, three preseason games played in Shanghai and Macao.
Goldman, Sachs & Co. acted as strategic advisor to NBA China and as exclusive placement agent for the offering. Proskauer Rose LLP acted as the legal advisor for NBA China.