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Qatar sovereign wealth fund to invest in NBA and NHL teams, in first for US sports

Deal believed to be Qatar's first investment in an American professional sports franchise
Kyle Kuzma #33 of the Washington Wizards drives to the basket during the first half against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on 4 February 2023 in New York City.
Kyle Kuzma #33 of the Washington Wizards drives to the basket during the first half against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center in New York City, on 4 February 2023 (AFP)

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is planning to buy a minority stake in the parent company of several sports teams in Washington, including the Wizards basketball franchise, Capitals hockey team, and other DC-area sports teams, as a part of a deal that is worth $4bn, according to several reports.

A source told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that the agreement between the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) and Monumental Sports & Entertainment would give QIA a roughly five percent stake in the company. The source added that the agreement had not been announced.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced the offer from QIA on Thursday and said that the basketball league was reviewing the deal.

“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,” NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said in a statement.

“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.”

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Middle East Eye reached out to the QIA for comment on this story but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

The reported deal is believed to be Qatar's first foray into the world of American professional sports. It is also the first time a foreign sovereign wealth fund is investing in an American sports franchise.

The NBA announced last year that it would begin allowing sovereign wealth funds to purchase minority stakes in its basketball teams, but would limit these stakes to no more than 20 percent.

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Bass said the league’s Board of Governors decided in November to allow “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”.

For more than a decade, Qatar has been making inroads in the world of sports and raising its international profile, thanks to the profits from its natural gas exports.

In 2011, Qatar Sports Investments became the majority owner of the French football team Paris Saint-Germain, and QSI also secured a 22 percent stake in the Portuguese football club, Braga, in October 2022.

The small Persian Gulf nation also hosted the 2022 Fifa World Cup, which the footballing association said was the most profitable in its history.

Saudi Arabia has also recently moved into US sports, making headlines in the country with the merger of Saudi-backed LIV Golf and the PGA Tour.

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