The WNBA announced Thursday that the league has raised $75 million from investors at a $1 billion valuation, the largest-ever capital raise for a women’s sports property. The funding was raised by selling equity in the WNBA.
The money comes from over two dozen investors, including investments from Nike, Condoleezza Rice, Pau Gasol, several NBA and WNBA team owners, and Penn graduates Laurene Powell Jobs (Founder and President, Emerson Collective) and Karen Lisa Finerman (CEO and Co-Founder, Metropolitan Capital Advisors).
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“Susan and I are excited about the growth opportunity in women’s sports and specifically the WNBA,” said Michael Dell, CEO, Dell Technologies and minority investor, San Antonio Spurs. “We also are proud to support a league that is committed to empowerment, and we look forward to supporting Cathy and all the accomplished and diverse women of the WNBA to make a positive impact in the world.”
The announcement comes as players, such as All-Star Liz Cambage, continue to call for better pay and benefits. Currently the average salary in the WNBA is $120,648 while the supermax is $228,094.
“We are incredibly fortunate to be able to capitalize on the current momentum around women’s sports and are grateful to the investors who have chosen to support the WNBA in an unprecedented way and to our team governors who continue to invest in the players and teams,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “Our strategy is to deploy this capital to continue to drive the league’s brand as a bold, progressive entertainment and media property that embodies diversity, promotes equity, advocates for social justice, and stands for the power of women. Having just completed our historic 25th season, with this access to additional capital, we are setting the WNBA up for a successful future and it represents a sign and signal of the future direction of women’s sports as a whole.”
The league, which debuted in 1997, has never before raised funds from investors and will use it to aid the league’s growth strategy through marketing, brand elevation and globalization.
“Women’s sport is one of the best investments, with great potential to impact and grow the next era of basketball,” said Sonja Henning, VP, North America League Partnerships, NIKE, Inc. “Nike has always been more than a sponsor with the WNBA — we’re a strategic partner. And we’re proud to be part of a movement to redefine the future of sport for a new generation — for WNBA players, fans and girls.”
The WNBA season begins in May.