- Lizhang Jiang will own 5 percent of Minnesota basketball club
- Timberwolves are controlled by billionaire Glen Taylor
Lizhang Jiang has become the first Chinese owner of 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, and real estate investor Meyer Orbach received stakes in the Timberwolves as well as minority shares in the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx, according to a statement released Wednesday by the NBA franchise.
Jiang, 35, 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 his company. She declined to specify the size of stake 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, while Meyer 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.
“As a passionate sports fan, I’m excited to become a part of the Timberwolves and Lynx organization and honored to be the first Chinese citizen to have ownership in the NBA,” Jiang said in the team’s statement. “My goal is to bring China and this great league closer, and build the Timberwolves and Lynx fan base in our country.”
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.
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 Fútbol 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.
— With assistance by Yan Zhang, and Scott Soshnick