Technology billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes has become the first Australian to own an NBA team, buying a minority stake in the Utah Jazz.
Cannon-Brookes, the co-founder and co-chief executive of software firm Atlassian, joins s growing list of technology entrepreneurs owning NBA teams, with his investment in the US basketball team, said to be in the hundreds of millions.
He teams up with the founder of US technology company Qualtrics, Ryan Smith and Ryan Sweeney, partner at US venture capital firm Accel. Sweeney’s company was an early investor in Qualtrics and Altassian.
The opportunity to pick up a stake in the Utah Jazz came about when the Miller family, owners of the Jazz for the past 35 years began negotiating with Smith to buy a majority stake.
Under the agreement, Smith will be the representative owner of the team, with Cannon-Brookes and Sweeney, coming in as minority owners.
Smith’s compant Qualtrics designs software for fast data collection and analysis, while Atlassian builds software to help IT departments and computer programmers work together online.
“The hardest thing about this process has been that it has all been on Zoom, so you do miss out a little bit of that excitement.
“Being on the ground and interacting with everybody is important for a deal like this, but I am confident the planes will open up and we will figure it out in the next year or two,” Cannon-Brookes told Nine newspapers.
“The NBA is very technology-centric and has a long history of entrepreneurial owners; just in the last decade the major transactions have all been done by tech entrepreneurs, so that reflects the way the league runs,” he said.
“All three of us are highly competitive people and this is a huge platform.”
Smith said the deal took a while to pull together but both were determined to make it happen.
“I have been trying for a while [to buy the Utah Jazz] … one owner for 35 years. I thought this thing was never leaving the family,” Mr Smith said.
“I told Mike no matter what happens with COVID, we are not blinking.”