Business / Companies

Shanghai investor acquires stake in Timberwolves

(Agencies) Updated: 2016-06-30 09:49

Mainland owner seen helping the team broaden its fan base

Businessman Lizhang Jiang has become the first Chinese owner in a National Basketball Association team with a stake purchase in the Minnesota Timberwolves, weeks after he took control of a Granada-based club playing in Spain's top soccer league.

Jiang, general manager of Shanghai Double-Edged Sports, made the investments "out of his personal interest, as he has a strong passion for sports after working so many years in the sports marketing business in China," said Yu Yue, a spokeswoman for the company. She declined to confirm the size of stake that Jiang took in the Timberwolves.

The Chinese businessman is buying 5 percent of the NBA team, according to a person familiar with the transaction, who asked not to be identified as the transaction isn't complete.

Real estate investor Meyer Orbach will buy about 10 percent of the franchise. Control of the team will remain with Minnesota billionaire Glen Taylor, who bought the team in 1994.

The Timberwolves are worth $720 million, 27th in the 30-team league, according to Forbes. The team finished 29-53 this past season, 13th in the Western Conference. Timberwolves spokesman Brad Ruiter said the club would comment on investors this week.

The NBA has spent decades cultivating fans in China, and an owner from the Asian country might help the team and league win fans and sell sponsorships to Chinese companies.

When Yao Ming played for the Houston Rockets from 2002 to 2011, the popularity of the NBA surged in China and in other parts of Asia.

Jiang became the new owner of Granada Club de Futbol after paying 37 million euros ($41 million) to Italian businessman Gino Pozzo, the Spanish news agency EFE reported June 15.

The team plays in Spain's First Division soccer league, where it is currently ranked in 16th place.

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