Kevin Durant invests in women’s sports again as part of Athletes Unlimited’s $30 million capital

Athletes Unlimited continues its rapid growth with a $30 million fundraising round from investors including Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s 35V company, four-time hockey Olympian Angela Ruggiero and Schusterman Family Investments, they announced Thursday.

The increase is a further sign that the league – and women’s sports collectively – is on a solid trajectory following the launch of basketball and a second softball league, as well as the announcement of a multi-year rights deal. with ESPN. It’s been a rapid increase since its softball league launched its first pitch in August 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Athletes Unlimited (AU) is a network of sports leagues covering softball, volleyball, lacrosse and basketball that offers a model similar to fantasy sports in order to crown an individual champion. There are no coaches and the athletes make the decisions both in games and in the direction of the league.

Kevin Durant invests more in women’s sport

Investors range from sports stars to those outside of it. The biggest names are Durant and Kleiman, who are expanding their women’s sports investment portfolio. They participated in the Just Women’s Sports seed funding round in May 2021 and became minority investors in NWSL NJ/NY Gotham FC in May 2022.

“Athletes Unlimited is at the forefront of women’s sports and an inspiration for how sports leagues can thrive with an athlete-focused business model,” Durant said in a league statement.

Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s 35V company is part of a $30 million fundraiser for Athletes Unlimited. (Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Durant, Kleiman and Ruggiero have served on the UA advisory board since its founding in 2020. Advisory board members include Olympic softball outfielder Jessica Mendoza and former USWNT star Abby Wambach. Athletes represent the Board of Directors, lead a Player Executive Committee for each league to determine rules, among other things, and share long-term benefits.

“Every professional sports league should take note of what the UA is doing, especially the path for athletes to have a financial stake in their own leagues,” Kleiman said in a league statement.

The remaining investors in the capital raise include former journalist Jane Gottesman, film producer Sharon Harel-Cohen, David Blitzer, Salil Seshadri and Keith Meister. Gottesman will also join the board.

What fundraising means for AU, women’s professional sport

Women’s professional sports is a relatively young business, which makes the opportunities for growth far greater than established men’s professional sports. So while they may not currently be at the financial or viewership level that men’s professional sports are, they have the potential to achieve it. And investors are buying now as interest in women’s sports continues to soar.

“These investors share our vision and ambition to not only reinvent professional sports, but to rethink the way a business can – and should – appear in the world,” co-founder Jonathan Soros said in a statement. “AU’s growth has far exceeded my expectations in its first two years. The addition of these strategic investors will only add to the energy and resources available to fuel future growth.”

A cash injection will mean more of what Athletes Unlimited has been focused on since its founding just two years ago. He is invested in his athletes and their well-being, from health care and maternity protection to the style of uniform they feel most comfortable wearing. He always pushed storytelling, a vital way for fans to engage with the athletes and the league.

More investment is another sign of growing interest, which was evident when it announced a two-year deal with ESPN in April to broadcast its softball and lacrosse leagues. AU CEO and co-founder Jon Patricof told Yahoo Sports at the time that they were “exploring all of our options and [having] discussions with a number of parties” over broadcast deals for its basketball and volleyball leagues.

The UA basketball league launched last January and included Natasha Cloud, who went on to lead the WNBA in assists in 2022, and Sydney Colson, who won the title with the Las Vegas Aces. Tianna Hawkins is the defending champion. Season 2 will debut early next year.

Naomi C. Amerson