D.C. United Owners Buy Into Aussie Basketball Ahead of Brisbane 2032 Games

·3 min read

Sports investor Jake Silverstein had always dreamed of owning an NBA team.

Silverstein and his family lightly pursued multiple teams, and were especially aggressive from 2007-2010. Those deals never reached serious negotiations, and climbing valuations have pushed the idea of joining an NBA ownership group into another stratosphere. But that didn’t quell Silverstein’s desire.

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He is now satisfying his thirst—and only had to change hemispheres.

Silverstein has purchased a roughly 20% stake in the Brisbane Bullets of Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL) which values the club at $30 million, according to people familiar with the transaction. They were granted anonymity because the matter was private.

The 36-year-old businessman and son of the late cable pioneer Barry Silverstein joins the controlling ownership group co-led by Jason Levien, a longtime sports agent and executive who currently serves as CEO of Major League Soccer’s D.C. United. The Bullets ownership group also includes former NBA guard Kevin Martin, Milwaukee Bucks guard Khris Middleton and Toronto Raptors forward Thaddeus Young.

Silverstein, who will lead day-to-day business operations, has a portfolio that also includes United and Swansea City of the English Football League. He previously owned stake in the Houston Dynamo, which he sold last year. The Stormlight Holdings CEO looks to turn the Bullets into one of the top destinations for overseas talent in a growing league that has emerged as a proving ground for NBA players such as LaMelo Ball, R.J. Hampton and Melbourne product Josh Giddey.

“We’re hoping to revitalize the franchise under our stewardship,” Silverstein said, with aims to energize the community of Brisbane, the third-most populous city in Australia.

There are already plans to enhance the player-development model for the Bullets, who finished near the bottom of the league standings this past season. And while the deal helped scratch Silverstein’s basketball itch, the more intriguing aspect of the deal might be the upcoming real estate opportunities that arise as Brisbane prepares to host the 2032 Summer Olympics.

The ownership group, one of five led by Americans in the NBL, could host games at a new facility that would be built in anticipation of the Games.

Preliminary discussions between ownership and government officials about a plan that would include a new 12,000-to-14,000-seat arena for the Bullets and an adjacent multi-use development—a projected $250 million project financed through a public-private partnership that is expected to include restaurants, residences and potentially a sportsbook.

The NBL, owned by real estate developer Larry Kestelman, has recently inked a new media deal and is poised to find innovative ways to deliver more content to the masses. The 10-team league has also identified real estate opportunities for certain clubs as another way to drive their valuations.

Silverstein says he would have bought his stake whether or not Brisbane was awarded the games, but he calls the chance to further diversify his portfolio “hugely exciting and affirming.” The combined appeal of a short-term win on Olympics-driven real estate while betting on the longevity of the NBL was too good to pass up.

As the player-development focus diversifies from the NCAA to alternative leagues such as Overtime Elite, with prospects realizing there are different routes to the NBA, Silverstein is bullish on the NBL’s future, not only in attracting stronger overseas playing talent but also coaches, executives and other management.

“There’s going to be multiple (basketball) leagues that are relevant and interesting,” he said, “and this one feels like it’s about to have a major moment.”

(This story has been updated in the headline.)

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