The National Basketball League has been playing games in Australia and New Zealand for almost 40 years and the New Zealand Breakers, winners of four recent championships, had an ownership change announced in February. The change included new majority shareholders, with Matt Walsh, Romie Chaudhari, Dan Katz, former NBA player Shawn Marion and Adam Goodman listed as a consortium.
But it was this blurb from the release that caught our eye:
Since retiring in 2015, Walsh has turned his hand to business with a focus on sports club ownership, holding interests in Swansea City in the EPL and second division team Loudoun United.
Let’s go through what is known about some of the people involved here:
Walsh and Chaudhari are members of the consortium that holds a majority ownership stake in Swansea City, with Chaudhari being listed as one of the Directors on the club’s home page next to Jason Levien, who we all know is a Managing General Partner of D.C. United.
But it’s Walsh we’ll focus on. A former client of Levien’s from the pair’s time working in and with the NBA where he played in 2005 with the Miami Heat, Walsh cites Levien (and Sam Porter, a Levien collaborator who is Director of Business and Legal Affairs at D.C. and Swansea) as a major influence in a recent interview, with Levien even presiding over Walsh’s wedding in 2012.
Since taking over ownership of the Breakers with Chaudhari and Marion, Walsh has sought to lift the profile of the club, courting current NBA superstar Lebron James in an ad campaign, being photographed with former President Barack Obama holding a Breakers jersey and courting successful yet controversial college coach Rick Pitino:
Keen for a change of scenery @KingJames?— SKYCITY Breakers NZ (@NZBreakers) March 20, 2018
Pls don't #ComeToPhilly#ManiLaBron doesn't need you
And you've been to #LAbron soooo many times.
Come to #LeBroNZ and we'll get the @RealStevenAdams to show you round pic.twitter.com/k9r8N9ZFvf
The New Zealand Breakers, I’m told, have offered their vacant head coaching position to former Louisville coach Rick Pitino. The @NZBreakers play in Australia’s @NBL and their new American ownership has been pitching Pitino’s representative on the post this week.— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) March 30, 2018
Where Walsh fits into Loudoun remains unclear, though he was believed to be at January’s hearing when D.C. United’s plans for a USL stadium and training facility were approved by the Loudoun Board of Supervisors. Although some other USL teams have separate organizational silos when it comes to on-field operation and development, any separation of the DCU and Loudoun entities (planned or otherwise) has not been made public, and Levien (along with General Partner Erick Thohir) have been looking for investors to take over what was Will Chang’s ownership stake since a July New York Times article was published.
None of this appears to impact the team’s plans on new infrastructure on the field. The path towards the USL stadium is set, and land preparation is about to commence, with the stadium to be ready in March/April of 2019 and the training facility sometime after that.
It is the off the field moves that are drawing some interest.