As the Indiana Pacers mull what to do with All-Star shooting guard Victor Oladipo, the Maryland native has taken his business ventures to Middle-earth. Oladipo and his business partner Jay Henderson have joined an ownership group to purchase the New Zealand Breakers from the National Basketball League in Oceania.
The ownership group also includes NBA retiree Shawn Marion and former University of Florida basketball player Matt Walsh. Sources say Oladipo’s investment was between $1 million and $2 million in exchange for 5 to 10 percent of the Breakers franchise, which is made up of the basketball team, the Black Sheep New Zealand esports team and commercial real estate in Auckland, including the Breakers’ home arena. The New Zealand Breakers are worth $27 million.
Oladipo hopes to bring a new perspective that will help the team build a winning culture. “I want to help them realize that the culture of a team is going to benefit everyone. When you have high culture and high belief, special things are going to happen,” he said in a phone interview. “This is the first step hopefully for me; it’s a good first step in the right direction and a great way to get my feet wet in ownership.”
Success is already ingrained in the Breakers franchise; it’s had only two losing seasons in the last decade. Still, the team has not won a championship since 2015 and has missed the playoffs three out of the last four years.
Before investing in the Breakers, Henderson and Oladipo considered other professional basketball teams, European soccer clubs and also the MLS. The two were drawn to the Breakers after watching games with NBA Draft prospects LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton, and felt that the league was in a good place. (Another compelling factor: The former Hoosier is a big fan of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movie franchises, which were both filmed entirely in New Zealand.)
From there, Oladipo’s agent connected the two to Matt Walsh, who bought the Breakers in 2018. Over the past two years, the former basketball player (who after a brief stint in the NBA played a 10-year career in Europe and eventually retired to focus on his business portfolio) helped the team’s revenue grow from around $2.2 million to near $10 million. For Oladipo and Henderson, the opportunity to own the Breakers home stadium, Spark Arena, helped close the deal.
“We saw an opportunity to use the Breakers platform to become the premier sports and entertainment property in New Zealand and the region,” Walsh said.
The Breakers are attempting to emulate the multi-platform portfolio of many NBA franchises. Most of the NBA’s teams have an NBA 2K esports team. Although the Breakers’ Black Sheep New Zealand esports team doesn’t play 2K, it is active in other gaming franchises like League of Legends and Tekken. The Breakers will also continue to use their stadium for non-basketball events such as concerts, award shows and other expositions, just like NBA teams do.
Oladipo and Henderson know that it will take time to build the team into what they want, and they plan to use the All-Star’s visibility to their advantage. “It brings so much opportunity for us to take them to the next level by using [Victor] to leverage TV deals, sponsorship deals, endorsement deals and more publicity for the team,” Henderson said. “I bring my marketing expertise and all the people that I know and Vic being an NBA star under 30 years old, his leverage is incredible. There’s no limit.”
Henderson will likely run day-to-day operations while Oladipo continues to focus on getting healthy and improving his game in the NBA. “My job is when he gets done playing he doesn’t have to work or worry about anything, he’ll have so many business ventures that are doing so well that he can have his choice at what he wants to do.”
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