As the NBA playoffs begin, the league games are being broadcasted in China after an almost three-year ban. The return to state-run TV in China has been a quiet one. The league had stayed quiet but worked behind the scenes to work with the strict regime. NBA owners have more than $10 billion in investments at stake, in China. In October 2019, Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey had tweeted his support to protesters in Hong Kong leading to the broadcast ban in China.
ESPN has written a lengthy piece on the investments and business links of NBA owners with Chinese teams and businesses by commissioning a New York firm called Strategy Risks. This firm quantifies investments using information available publicly from government filings, contracts, media reports and documents available in the public domain as teams are private entities.
Strategy Risks assessment says that a combined total of $10 billion is invested in China—approximately $5 billion in NBA China with 30 teams at $150 million each. The NBA owns 90 percent of the stake, ESPN owns 5 percent and the rest is owned by state-controlled banks.
According to the ESPN report, Strategy Risks assessed other individual investments by NBA owners in other businesses in China and the exposure or investments are as follows:
Nets owner Joe Tsai has by far the largest investment due to his role in Alibaba. About 53.5 percent of his net worth is invested in China.
King’s co-owner Paul Jacob’s has more than 30 percent of his net worth linked to investments in China through Qualcomm, a wireless technology company, conservatively estimated to be at least $140 million.
Heat owner Micky Arison has over $375 million through the team and his business Carnival Corp.
Robert Pera of Memphis Grizzlies has about $369 million invested in Chine through Ubiquiti, a wireless equipment manufacturing company founded by him.
Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has investments of $160.3 million through Landry’s which runs 10 restaurants in China.
Joshua Harris, of the 79ers has investments of about $96 million through various businesses.
Michael Jordan who owns Charlotte’s Hornets has about $85 million exposure in China.
Many of these owners champion human rights and other freedoms in the U.S., but have stayed quiet when there are human rights abuses in China. When ESPN contacted all the stakeholders and owners as well as the NBA for comment, all those who were featured in their report declined to comment.