With all the Rubio trade rumors, draft hangover, and free agency frenzies, the biggest news that will impact the Timberwolves long-term occurred and many people disregarded it. While it is not huge portion of the team, Glen Taylor sold a 5% stake to Chinese Business man Lizhang Jiang. The 35 year-old owns a sports marketing company in China and is the first Chinese NBA owner. This is huge news for a few reasons:
- The 5% stake valued the Timberwolves at being worth $1 Billion.
- The NBA market in China is Huge.
- Glen Taylor finally sold a minority-stake in the team.
To put some perspective on this, the Timberwolves valuation of $1 Billion puts it above what the Atlanta Hawks sold for at $780M, the last team to be sold. The Clippers were sold at $2B, which really increased the values of NBA-franchises around the league.
The Timberwolves are poised to be marketable in China and not just because the team is exciting. Zach LaVine has visited China in consecutive summers building his brand there. His popularity there is huge due to his back-to-back Dunk Championships. In Karl-Anthony Towns’ portfolio of publicity strides after his Rookie of the Year campaign, he recently came back from a China visit himself. If both players grow their popularity as players like Kobe Bryant exit, their brands could be among the strongest with the help of a Chinese owner.
While the 5% stake is not huge, it is an indication of where things are headed. Glen Taylor will absolutely look to sell the team in the near future and if one of the minority-owners decides to keep riding the wave in Minnesota, they could certainly buy out majority-stake in the near-term. With an increasing cap and revenue coming from broadcasting, the price tag on the franchise will certainly grow. Couple that with a young and exciting Wolves team that is not only marketable but international. Adding a player from China eventually will likely be something that is in the best interests of all the owners of the team.
Lizhang Jiang, also partial owner of a Spanish Soccer team, has encouraged bringing Chinese players over to Europe. The Rockets, who own the largest market share in China of any NBA team, just drafted Zhou Qi which seemed like a smart marketing move on their end. Certainly it will take a Chinese player on the roster in the future to grow the Timberwolves’ market share in the future.
Over the next few seasons, all of the young pups will be working to develop their personal brands, in and out of the US. Andrew Wiggins is already referred to as Maple Jordan and Towns has spent time developing his post-retirement career in broadcasting. The opportunity to couple their brands with a booming Chinese basketball economy could be a perfect storm. There will also be opportunities for the Timberwolves to potentially play some regular season games in China.
Being a marketing student/ fanatic, this is a dream come true as a Wolves fan. The Timberwolves could develop into a team that is nationally broadcasted regularly and seen as a decent free agent destination. Hopefully it will draw people to not only talk about the weather when a player ends up in Minny.
The Timber Rebuilder.
P.S. I hope the new owners push for new jerseys. We need it.