Why Aston Villa and Milwaukee Bucks Owner Invested in BAL | New times
New Fortress Energy, a company involved in the development, financing and construction of energy infrastructure assets, is a major financier of the recently concluded Basketball Africa League.
The company was founded by Wes Edens, who is also the owner of popular football club Aston Villa as well as Milwaukee Bucks, an American basketball team participating in the NBA.
The new times’ Collins mwai spoke with Edens about the investments in BAL, the trajectory of the league as well as other opportunities in the emerging league.
What caught your interest in BAL given that it was the inaugural season with little prelude?
While there was no specific experience in the NBA Basketball Africa League, there are many other experiences to build on, such as global athletes from Africa playing on stages all over the world. I think it’s a very natural step to create a basketball league here, given the incredible abundance of athletic talent.
What are your projections for BAL’s growth in the years to come?
Above all, it must be a competitive league. This is not an attempt to further distribute NBA merchandise but rather to create a league itself. There are basketball leagues in these countries. The relationship between these leagues and this league remains to be defined. The first step is to set up this league, there are 12 different countries that will lead a competitive framework to emerge.
Aston Villa FC, Milwaukee Bucks, what drives your interests in sports investing?
I am a sports nerd, I am always active in various activities. I think sports investing is the perfect marriage with business opportunities. I don’t collect art, I don’t do other activities. This is what I love and these are serious business investments.
Considering your background in the industry, what do you think it takes for BAL to achieve its goal of being a premier basketball league in the years to come?
When you look at sports investing, if your top 10 questions aren’t about media, media rights, media values, and TV deals, then you’re asking the wrong questions. Media value is what drives the value of sport.
The hallmark of a productive BAL would be a productive media presence for people to care about, watch and follow. As the media profile grows, so will the league. And not just the African media, but the global media as people recognize the quality of the athletes in the league.
New Fortress Energy with which you financed the league, is the firm looking to increase its presence on the continent?
It was an easy decision to get involved as an NFE in BAL sponsorship. It focuses on the continent and the markets that we believe need our business. Most of the continent needs electricity, clean and reliable electricity. It is a great place to do business. I often tell people not to characterize Africa as an Africa because there are a lot of different countries each with different characteristics and requiring a unique strategy. But I think there is a primary need for clean, reliable energy. We are also looking for sources of gas for our business and Africa is a very useful place. We may be one of the few companies interested in purchasing gas and building power plants for home use. Africa is a tremendous opportunity that is truly worth it.
As an investor, what is your checklist for deciding which markets to enter?
When you build an infrastructure, it takes everyone to say yes and one person to say no. The governments that have been most helpful to us in facilitating investment are those that have helped us organize ourselves around the entire existing regulatory framework. Time is the enemy of investments, so things need to be done in a timely manner. I think I am a patient investor and a very impatient person in a significant amount of time.
Governments that have done a good job running their own affairs, encouraging investment and cutting red tape. Although we are complying with the regulations, what complicates the task is the lack of clarity of what is required. Clarity is a prerequisite, it must be a real goal for governments.
What do you think of Rwanda as an investment destination?
I think Rwanda is extraordinary. It is not only one of the cleanest cities on the continent but in the world. If you look back to the 1960s the GDP of Singapore and Jamaica was about the same, in 60 years things have changed dramatically. This is largely an effect of leadership. Rwanda’s leadership under President Kagame has been extraordinary.
For an economy that is not rich in mineral resources, the people have been the resources and there is an ambition for growth.
What are your thoughts and expectations regarding subsequent BAL tournaments?
Personally I learn by doing. What happened in the inaugural season likely could not have happened anywhere else on the continent given the pandemic. We are fortunate to have a relationship with Rwanda. We’re going to sit down (The African Committee and the NBA) as a group and talk about what we would like best to move forward to have a natural evolution. Competitive tournaments that look like this are certain in the near future, the challenge in Africa is infrastructure and travel and these are challenges that we will be looking at in the future.
I’m sure this will evolve into something very productive.
I think the development of the competitive framework for sport as young people improve is a big part of that. If you look at what the G-league was in the United States 5 years ago and what it is today, there is a lot of young talent and it serves as a gateway for people in the NBA. . Considering the interest in sports and the talent available, this is very possible. The national leagues are very useful, what the BAL will involve remains to be seen.
Wes Edens, owner of popular football club Aston Villa as well as Milwaukee Bucks, an American basketball team competing in the NBA. Clear photo.