Alibaba Billionaire Becomes National Lacrosse League’s Latest Investor

Jena Greene | Contributor

The National Lacrosse League announced its 10th addition to the league by expanding into San Diego Wednesday.

The owner will be Joseph Tsai. If he sounds familiar that’s because the guy co-founded Alibaba and is worth $11.4 billion.

Tsai paid around $5 million for the team and expansion rights, which were finalized today. $5 mil may sound pretty lofty for an NLL team that isn’t pulling anywhere close to the ratings that other professional sports get.

However, Joseph Tsai is no dummy. He went to Yale and actually played lacrosse there in the 80s. His company has a market cap to the tune of $392.70 billion. It’s probably safe to say Tsai is a numbers guy. And the numbers for NLL are adding up.

In just the past year, paid match attendance has shot up 12 percent. The NLL is also rumored to be adding a few teams every year for the next five years. It also seems to be learning a lesson from the NFL — which has taken a recent hit from lagging viewership — and is focusing on digitally heavy game coverage.

The league also has NLL TV, which launched nine months ago and has close to 30,000 subscribers and features a game of the week with closer to 350,000 viewers tuning in.

So although these numbers are nowhere close to the NFL or the NBA, my guess is that Tsai sees something most others might not.

He’s not alone though. Other billionaire are getting into the NLL world. Pegula Sports & Entertainment, a Buffalo, N.Y. based entertainment company that also owns the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, owns the NLL Buffalo Bandits. Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, a Denver-based entertainment company that owns the Colorado Avalanche, owns the NLL Colorado Mammoth.

Maybe don’t count lacrosse out just yet. Remember, football used to be thought of as an elitist sport for spoiled Ivy League kids at its beginning, too.

Jena Greene

Contributor

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