NBA star Kevin Durant takes 5% stake in Philadelphia Union soccer team

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Kevin Durant is now a sports team owner.

The Brooklyn Nets star finalized a 5% ownership stake in the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer, with the option to purchase an additional 5%, the club announced Monday. It’s unclear how much Durant paid for the stake.

“I’m excited to partner with the Philadelphia Union for years to come,” Durant said in a statement provided to CNBC. “My team and I connected instantly with the Union coaching staff and leadership, as well as the team’s story.”

As part of the agreement, Durant and his business partner, Rich Kleiman, will work with the Union on marketing opportunities that “will focus on growing the Union footprint in the sports world,” through their company Thirty Five Ventures.

“We set out to create a different type of partnership that isn’t simply a passive ownership stake, but real involvement across marketing and business development from the whole Thirty Five Ventures team,” said Kleiman in a statement. 

Durant will also work to improve Chester and Philadelphia communities through his Kevin Durant Charity Foundation.

Jay Sugarman, Union owner and CEO of real estate investment firm iStar, said Durant brings a community-first mindset and “combined with his competitive drive and forward-thinking mentality; we believe Kevin adds a key piece in reaching our ambitions for the club.”

Durant’s purchase is the first of what some sports investment firms are projecting will be a busy time for sports franchises as limited-partnership transactions could heat up, especially in soccer league overseas, due to the economic impact of Covid-19 on team owners.

Frims Bain Capital and CVC Capital Partners are exploring purchases of Italian football league Serie A, which generated roughly $2.8 billion in the 2018-2019 season. Texas billionaire Daniel Friedkin, CEO of Gulf States Toyota, also made an offer of $600 million for one of the Serie A clubs.

Charles Baker, the co-Chair of O’Melveny’s sports group, said there were several transactions in progress before the pandemic hit and projected things would heat up after the initial shock of Covid-19.

“I think people are approaching it somewhat cautiously,” said Baker, who advised Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper on his MLS acquisition in Charlotte. “Buyers are feeling somewhat empowered right now, but there is still a limited supply.”

Durant’s move could pay off if the MLS’ projection of securing a lucrative media rights deal pans out. The MLS, which announced it would return in July, is expected to attract offers well beyond its current rights package, which runs through 2022.

Durant, 31, joins Houston Rockets guard James Harden as an MLS team owner. Last July, Harden invested $15 million in the Houston Dynamo franchise. The Dynamo was last valued at $280 million, while the Union are worth $240, according to Forbes. 

Though some are seeking to offloading limited-partnership ownership stakes, Harden told CNBC he has no plans to sell his investment in the Dynamo. “We’re just getting started,” he said. 

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