A person with knowledge of the sale says the Qatar Investment Authority is buying a roughly 5% stake of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the NBA’s Washington Wizards, NHL’s Washington Capitals and WNBA’s Washington Mystics, as part of a $4.05 billion deal.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the agreement had not been announced.
It is believed to be the first time the government of Qatar is investing in U.S. professional sports. Sportico first reported the transaction, saying it is the first time any sovereign wealth fund has bought into ownership of an American team.
Qatar last year hosted soccer’s World Cup for the first time, helping FIFA reach a record revenue level because of booming ticket and hospitality sales.
Ted Leonsis is managing partner and chairman of Monumental, which lists 20 other partners on its website, including Laurene Powell Jobs and Washington Nationals owner Mark Lerner.
Qatar is purchasing a five percent stake in Monumental Sports and Entertainment
Monumental owns the Washington Wizards of the NBA and the Washington Capitals of the NHL
The company also owns the Capital City Go-Go of the NBA G League and recently took over the media outlet formerly known as NBC Sports Washington, now Monumental Sports Network.
In a statement to The Athletic, NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said, ‘In November 2022, the NBA Board of Governors decided to permit passive, non-controlling, minority investments in NBA teams by institutional investors, including university endowments, foreign and domestic pension funds, and sovereign wealth funds, subject to a set of policy guidelines adopted at that time.
‘The NBA Board is currently reviewing a potential investment by QIA in Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the Washington Wizards, among other sports properties.
‘In accordance with the policy, if approved, QIA would have a passive, minority investment in the team, with no involvement in its operations or decision-making.’
A source within the NHL told The Athletic that the league has not ‘precluded investment by a sovereign wealth fund’ and they’re allowed to own a team as long as it’s approved by the league’s Board of Governors. They added that a fund is capped at 20 percent ownership of a team.
This is the first time Qatar has bought a stake in an American sports team. However, it’s not the first time the gulf state has used its financial power to influence sports in the United States.
Prior to the start of the World Cup, the Washington Post reported that Qatar Airways was becoming a major sponsor of Fox Sports’ coverage of the tournament and that the production of it was ‘essentially being underwritten by the Qatari government’.
Adam Silver spoke last week on the merger in golf saying ‘people are too dissmissive’
Last Thursday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke about the idea of state investment into American sports on ‘The Dan Patrick Show’.
‘When the Saudis invest in sports, it gets outsized attention,’ Silver said in response to a question about the merger between the PGA Tour and the Saudi PIF.
‘Now, I don’t want to complain about that because we want to get outsized attention. On the other hand, somebody could go down the list there. They are investors in some of our largest American corporations. Some of the most well-known brands have investments from them. And I also think it’s a two-edged sword.
‘I hear the comments about sportswashing. On the other hand, you’re talking about it, others are talking about it. … In the same way, the World Cup — the football World Cup, soccer World Cup — brought enormous attention to Qatar.
‘I think people learn about these countries, learn about what’s happening in the world in ways they otherwise wouldn’t. So I think the media does its job.
‘But … now talking specifically about the NBA, where we’re such a global sport, I think people are a little too dismissive these days about the benefits that come from the commonality around sports.
‘That with a sport like basketball — our finals are distributed virtually everywhere in the world, the sport is played everywhere in the world — it’s an opportunity to bring people together.’
Monumental Sports is run by Ted Leonsis, who bought the Caps in 1999 & the Wizards in 2010
In global sports, Qatar has been heavily investing itself into various ventures – especially football – in the past decade.
From their purchase of Paris Saint-Germain in 2012 to the development of the Aspire Academy, to rumored purchases of Manchester United, Qatar has been trying to embed itself in the globe’s elite sporting branches.
But the increased attention it has made in its purchases has also shed a spotlight on the various human rights abuses that the country faces.
Monumental Sports is owned by Ted Leonsis – who purchased the Capitals in 1999 and bought both the Wizards and their home stadium, Capital One Arena, in 2010.