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Qatar ‘closing in on major US sports investment’

Washington Wizards, basketball Creative Commons/All-Pro Reels
A Washington Wizards player shoots during a game against the Philadelphia 76ers
  • QIA interested in basketball and hockey team owner
  • NBA allows wealth funds to buy stakes of up to 20%
  • Basketball team valuations continue to rise sharply

Qatar is ready to take a shot at the $500 billion US sports market with a reported investment interest in Monumental Sports & Entertainment.

The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) is set to buy a 5 percent stake in Monumental, the parent company of basketball side Washington Wizards and the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals, according to a report from Sportico.

Monumental also owns the women’s NBA side Washington Mystics, Capital One Arena and the regional news network NBC Sports Washington.

The report said the deal would value the group at $4.05 billion.

Monumental declined to comment, while QIA did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

It was reported in February that the QIA and Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala were interested in buying minority stakes in NBA teams.

The door to possible NBA ownership was opened towards the end of last year by the league’s board of governors, who decided to allow wealth funds to buy stakes of up to 20 percent.

Valuations for basketball teams have risen sharply recently. The NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury were sold earlier this year for $4 billion in total. Their previous owner Robert Sarver paid a then-record $401 million for them in 2004.

In 2019, the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets were sold to Alibaba co-founder Joseph Tsai for $2.35 billion, then a record for US professional sports.

Baseball and ice hockey have also loosened ownership rules in recent years. Major League Baseball and the NHL now allow private equity firms to take minority stakes.

“Appropriately targeted, negotiated and transacted investments are always possible,” Simon Chadwick, professor of sport and geopolitical economy at Skema Business School in Paris, said. 

“But as LIV Golf and Saudi Arabia have shown, these are sensitive times which many in the US are responding to in hostile terms. 

“Gulf investors currently need to be diplomatic, shrewd and patient in pursuing sports investment opportunities in the US.”

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