NBA China finds partners for an expansion

  • partners collectively invest $253 million to acquire 11% of the preference shares in NBA China.
Hong Kong - The National Basketball Association announced the formation of NBA China with five strategic partners, paving the way for an expanded Chinese league.

ESPN(a division of the Walt Disney Company), Bank of China Group Investment, Legend Holdings Limited(the holding company for PC maker Lenovo), the Li Ka Shing Foundation and China Merchants Investments( an affiliate of China Merchants Bank), will collectively invest $253 million to acquire 11% of the preference shares in NBA China. The new company will conduct all of the league's businesses in greater China, such as merchandising and marketing of television and other media.

Tim Chen, the former CEO of Microsoft Greater China, who joined the NBA in mid-October last year, will lead the new entity as CEO. NBA China will be governed by a board of directors that will include representatives of the strategic investors as well as Indiana Pacers co-owner Herb Simon, Minnesota Timberwolves principal owner Glen Taylor and NBA President of Global Marketing Partnerships and International Business Operations Heidi Ueberroth, COO Silver and Commissioner Stern.

The premier professional men's basketball league, which includes 29 teams in the United States and one in Canada, is celebrated among the young generation in China. The term "NBA" is consistently the most searched sports term on Baidu.com, the top search engine in China.

The NBA became the first American sports league to stage contests in China in 2004, with the NBA China Games 2004 in Beijing and Shanghai. The league returned this season for NBA China Games 2007, three preseason games played in Shanghai and Macau.

The NBA currently has relationships with 51 Chinese television broadcasters, including a partnership of more than 20 years with national network CCTV. The league has organized hundreds of touring basketball events for fans and currently maintains 16 marketing partnerships with a combination of Chinese corporations and U.S.-based multinationals.

More than 500 unique NBA products are available in China at Wal-Mart, Carrefour, Adidas stores and many other retail locations.

(The Associated Press)

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