Sunday, May 24, 2009

The China Cavaliers

A group of Chinese investors are setting themselves up to become the first foreign owners of an NBA team.

From The Cleveland Plain-Dealer:
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cavaliers already have a global star. A clutch-shooting global star at that. Soon they may have a global partner that could help secure that global star's future in Cleveland.

According to multiple sources within the Cavs, franchise majority owner Dan Gilbert has a tentative agreement in place to allow a group of Chinese investors to purchase a significant stake in the Cavaliers Operating Company, the entity that owns the Cavs and operates Quicken Loans Arena. The group is led by JianHua (Kenny) Huang, a Chinese businessman who has become successful by linking American and Chinese companies.

Huang and several of his partners were in Cleveland and attended Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference finals this week. He sat in Gilbert's courtside box Friday night and watched LeBron James hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to even the series with the Orlando Magic at one game apiece.

"Dan Gilbert has been approached multiple times over the past few years by investors that wanted to join the Cavs' ownership group," said Len Komoroski, Cavs and Quicken Loans Arena president said in a statement.

"This has recently happened again. As has been done previously, we're in the process of reviewing the possibility presented to us. Beyond that, we do not feel it would be appropriate to give further comment at this time."

Calls to Huang's company were not returned.

The direct impact of the move is securing the future of the franchise, which has been in a minority ownership flux for the last couple years as it loses millions in attempting to build a championship-quality team around James. It will not only mean an injection of capital but will open the Cavs to business in China. The move, which has been kept mostly secret in America, is being supported by the NBA as they have encouraged development in China.

Read On
This article, from a Cleveland newspaper that obviously like to see LeBron James stay in Cleveland, talks about the impact that Chinese ownership could have on James and his decision on whether to stay in with the Cavaliers or go to the Knicks in New York in 2010:
The other effect, which is surely the more interesting side to Cavs fans, is how vital this new link could be for James -- providing a huge tie-in with an economy James is eager to tap.


"You have to think globally," James said recently of his business interests. "I have a lot of fans in China and they're important to me."

James and Nike, by far his largest sponsor, have been on a mission to create a bond with the Chinese over the last three years in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics. James has made four visits to China, one with the Cavs as part of a preseason trip in 2007.

With basketball exploding in popularity among millions of young Chinese with exponentially growing buying power, James has targeted opportunities in the Far East to make the same kind of marketing impact in modern China that Michael Jordan had in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s. Only the market there operates on a dramatically larger scale.
As of 2009, there is no doubt that LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet. I'm in awe of the guy. He's massive - 6 feet 9 inches, 275 pounds - yet he's the fastest player in the NBA and has the highest vertical leap. There's never been anybody like him before.

James won his first MVP award this year. He won Friday night's playoff game with a last second shot. And he's also studied a bit of Mandarin.

I can't imagine James can say much in Mandarin or that he's taking the language very seriously, but the simple fact that he cares at all about learning Chinese shows how seriously he takes his popularity in China.

James is twenty-four years old. No matter if you're in Cleveland in Chongqing or in Chengdu, it's going to be amazing watching LeBron over the coming decade.


Ramesh said...

Oh this will be gamechanging for the entire NBA if there is Chinese ownership of the Cavs. LeBron will never leave Cavs and he'll become virtually a god in China. Wow ! Interesting times.

Vrani said...

"I can't imagine James can say much in Mandarin or that he's taking the language very seriously..."

Don't doubt LeBron. He can do anything.

Kimberly nut said...

I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the NBA is working the refs to make those big market teams into the best teams in the NBA. Refereeing isn’t any where close to as bad in any sport as it is in NBA basketball. Not only will Nike and David Stern love this partnership, but LeBron will love it. This will make the Cavs the most watched team in China and will push LeBron's brand all over China. LeBron's staying in Cleveland! this is great news I think Cavaliers already have a global star.