North American basketball’s NBA has launched a new private equity division to invest in start-up companies.

NBA Equity was formally created on Friday (November 4) after the arm was approved by the league’s board of governors in December 2021.

The division will bundle the NBA’s existing investments and enhance its activity in the space. The league hired David Lee to lead the division in May. He spent over 10 years in start-ups after stints at LG Electronics and Bain.

David Haber, the NBA’s chief financial officer, said: “We were getting more and more outreach from companies that thought it would be incredibly valuable to add the NBA not just as a commercial partner but as an investor.

“It really made sense for us to take advantage of the opportunities that are being presented to us in a more structured way.”

Haber also explained that the NBA will target specific start-ups that will “drive innovation both inside and outside the game.”

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The NBA will position itself as a strategic investor rather than a financial investor.

The league will focus on companies that are beyond the seed stage and more towards the growth stage.

The NBA already has investments in several companies and most recently added New Era to its portfolio, joining American football’s NFL and baseball’s MLB to invest in the headwear and apparel firm.

Over the past year, the league has also acquired equity stakes in Sportradar, the international sports data intelligence and digital services provider, blockchain-based fantasy platform Sorare, and events travel and experiences company QuintEvents.

The total value of the investments is reportedly close to $1 billion.

Each NBA team owns 1/30th of NBA Equity, which is also the case with the NBA TV in-house channel and the NBA China arm.

Meanwhile, the NBA has continued its rollout of international retail stores by opening its first outlet in Germany.

The league has teamed up with merchandising partner Fanatics, the US online sportswear and equipment retailer, to open a store in Berlin which it said is the largest in Europe.

It becomes the NBA’s fourth retail outlet in the continent, joining London (UK), Paris (France), and Milan (Italy).

The store, located at Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz and operated by retail giant Lids, features an extensive range of official NBA and WNBA merchandise and memorabilia, including exclusive NBA products, apparel, jerseys, headwear, sporting goods, toys, and collectibles from brands such as Mitchell & Ness, New Era, NIKE, and Wilson. 

The outlet also features exclusively commissioned artwork created by an independent Berlin-based designer and visual artist, exclusive NBA Berlin-branded apparel, as well as a customization area where fans can personalize NBA jerseys and hats for all 30 NBA teams.

Fanatics has a long-term merchandising and licensing deal with the league which was signed in 2015.

In recent months, the NBA has also opened stores in Australia (Melbourne and Sydney), India, the Middle East (Abu Dhabi), and Africa (South Africa).

The league has additional outlets in Brazil, China, Mexico, and Qatar, as well as its flagship store in New York in the US.

The NBA claims to have more than 400 NBA-branded retail stores and attractions worldwide.