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NBA owners silent on relationship to China, invested more than $10 billion in Chinese interests

NBA team owners, who have been frequently criticized for continuing to do business with China, have invested billions of dollars into the Chinese economy.

NBA owners silent on relationship to China, invested more than $10 billion in Chinese interests
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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A new analysis from ESPN found that owners of NBA teams have collectively invested $10 billion in China.

The report, published on Thursday, found that NBA team owners, who have been frequently criticized for continuing to do business with China, have invested billions of dollars into the Chinese economy. The NBA has refused to address the human rights issues of the communist country – including the repression of the Uyghurs – while star athletes like Lebron James continue to virtue signal about systemic racism in America. 

ESPN’s analysis examined the investments of 40 principal owners with business interests in China, including one owner whose company has a joint venture with a U.S. government-sanctioned entity. 

“The owners had reason to stay quiet: In addition to the money their teams derive from the NBA's $5 billion business in China, many have significant personal stakes there through their other businesses,” ESPN reported. “The owners' myriad ties to the world's second-largest economy leave their businesses vulnerable if they get on the wrong side of the Chinese government or the public there, according to the analysis.” 

According to the sports network, ESPN commissioned a firm called Strategy Risks to quantify companies’ exposure to China, and discovered that there are two primary ways the team owners become financially embroiled with the Chinese economy. 

“First, NBA China has grown so large that it contributes significantly to the value of each team. And, second, though Tsai has by far the biggest exposure, many NBA owners also have substantial financial interests in China through their other businesses,” ESPN reported. 

“To calculate the owners' exposure beyond the NBA, Strategy Risks assessed their holdings using a proprietary model that accounted for a range of data and risk factors, including the size of operations in China, current and projected revenues, valuation, growth opportunities and reliance on supply chains connected to the country,” the analysis continued. 

As detailed by the publication, Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai who co-founded Alibaba, has 53.5% of his net worth tied to China. Sacramento Kings co-owner, Paul Jacobs, has over 30% of his net worth tied to China. Jacobs, who was formally the CEO of Qualcomm maintains over $200 million of shares in the company, which accumulated two-thirds of its total annual revenues from China and Hong Kong in 2021. 

Memphis Grizzlies owner Robert Pera has $369 million of exposure to China through his holdings in Ubiquiti, the wireless networking hardware manufacturer. 

Likewise, Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has an estimated $160 million in exposure through Landry’s, which earns $57 million annually in its restaurant businesses in China. 

Former NBA superstar and current Charlotte Hornets owner, Michael Jordan, maintains extensive business ties in China. ESPN reports that Jordan and his brand pledged $100 million to social justice groups in the United States, similar donations were made by other team owners, while the NBA itself committed $300 million to social justice activism. 

Very few in the NBA have dared to speak out about the League’s extensive ties to Chinese interests, with only former Boston Celtics player, Enes Kanter Freedom, who grew up under political repression in Turkey, having spoken up about the matter, as reported by Rebel News.

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