Qatar to buy stake in Washington Wizards, Capitals: reports

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund is buying a stake in three US sports teams, according to reports on Thursday, in a significant move that could signal further Gulf investment in American sports, and marks the first Qatari investment in a National Basketball Association (NBA) team.

The US sports news outlet Sportico reported that the Qatar Investment Authority is buying a “passive minority stake” in Monumental Sports & Entertainment. The company owns the Washington Wizards in NBA, the Washington Mystics in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and the Washington Capitals in the National Hockey League (NHL).

A spokesperson for Monumental Sports & Entertainment declined to issue a statement but described the Sportico report as “accurate” to Al-Monitor.

The Associated Press reported that the Qatar Investment Authority is buying a roughly 5% stake in Monumental Sports & Entertainment as part of a $4.05 billion deal.

Why it matters: Qatar acquiring a stake in the Wizards and the Capitals could indicate the start of significant Gulf investment in US sports teams. Last November, the NBA approved a rule change to allow sovereign wealth funds to buy minority stakes in teams. The NHL, on the other hand, has never prohibited investment from sovereign wealth funds, according to the US sports news outlet The Athletic. The Qatar Investment Authority would be the first sovereign wealth fund to own part of an American sports team.

The news follows the Saudi Public Investment Fund’s LIV Golf merging with the rival PGA Tour last month. A former professional baseball executive told Al-Monitor at the time that the Wizards could be one of the first teams to accept Gulf investment due to owner Ted Leonsis’ need for cash following his purchase of the NBC Sports Washington sports network last year.

Gulf investment in other sports is not new. For years, Qatar Airways sponsored the FC Barcelona soccer team, though the relationship ended in 2017. Qatar also notably hosted the World Cup last year. 

Saudi Arabia and Qatar appear to be pursuing sports investments more aggressively as they seek to diversify away from oil and gas. Most recently, Qatari royal Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani has been reported to be close to purchasing the Manchester United soccer team in the United Kingdom.

Know more: The Washington Wizards already have a Middle East connection in Israeli forward Deni Avija. The 22-year-old joined the Wizards in 2020 after playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv.

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