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Sunday, February 25, 2024
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Athlete-Backed SPACs Take Another Hit As Kevin Durant’s Shuts Down

  • NBA superstar is not immune to downturn in SPAC market
  • Sports-related successes from investment vehicle are more the exception than the rule
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

NBA superstar Kevin Durant is one of the most prolific and successful investors of any pro athlete, building a portfolio through his Thirty Five Ventures that includes stakes in MLS team Philadelphia Union, the Premier Lacrosse League, Athletes Unlimited, Major League Pickleball, the Boardroom media network, and dozens of other entities.

But even he isn’t immune to the downturn in special-purpose acquisition companies. 

Infinite Acquisition Corp. — the SPAC Durant and his business manager Rich Kleiman formed in late 2021 — initially raised $276 million amid the initial fervor for blank-check companies. But unable to find an acquisition target within the standard, two-year window for SPACs, Durant and Kleiman will now liquidate the operation and return the raised money to investors at a roughly 7.8% return. 

The Durant-led SPAC had been seeking “technology-enabled platforms disrupting the traditional worlds of sports, health, wellness, food, commerce, and culture through their unique relationship with the consumer.”

In 2021, nearly 200 SPACs either sought a sports-related business or were led by an athlete, team owner, or other notable sports industry figure. Most of those have since shuttered, as less than 20% managed to find successful deals.

Another recent setback was digital entertainment and esports brand FaZe Clan, which is being purchased by the Jerry Jones-backed GameSquare in a deal valuing the company at just $16 million — a mere fraction of the $725 million valuation at the time of the original SPAC pact.

Still, the SPAC market has generated some notable sports-related successes, with DraftKings, Vivid Seats, and Genius Sports each becoming public companies. 

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