Financial slam dunk

Austin billionaires Michael and Susan Dell sink major investment into WNBA

Austin billionaires Michael and Susan Dell sink investment into WNBA

WNBA court
The Dells are among the WNBA's new investors. WNBA

Austin billionaire Michael Dell might not play basketball, but he and his wife, Susan, are becoming big players in the sport.

Last year, the Dells bought a 10 percent share of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. At the same time, investment firm Sixth Street purchased a 20 percent stake.

Now, the Dells are investors in the WNBA, the 12-team women’s league associated with the NBA. They recently chipped in an undisclosed sum as part of a $75 million fundraising haul for the WNBA. The funding will help fuel growth of the WNBA brand, including the potential addition of teams.

“Susan and I are excited about the growth opportunity in women’s sports and specifically the WNBA,” Michael Dell says in a WNBA news release. “We also are proud to support a league that is committed to empowerment, and we look forward to supporting [WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert] and all the accomplished and diverse women of the WNBA to make a positive impact in the world.”

Michael Dell is founder, chairman, and CEO of Round Rock-based Dell Technologies. As of February 8, Forbes estimated his net worth at $61.8 billion.

Dell Technologies last year became the “premier founding partner” of the University of Texas’ new Moody Center. The center, replacing the Erwin Center, will be the new home venue for the Longhorn men’s and women’s basketball teams. It also will host concerts and other entertainment and arts events.

The WNBA has only one team in Texas: the Dallas Wings. Bill Cameron, lead owner of the Wings, contributed to the WNBA’s $75 million pool of capital. He’s also part owner of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. Cameron, chairman and CEO of insurance provider American Fidelity Corp., lives in Oklahoma City.

Aside from the Dells and Cameron, new investors in the WNBA include:

  • Former Spurs player Pau Gasol.
  • Brad Hilsabeck, a minority investor in the Dallas Wings.
  • Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
  • Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
  • Sports apparel maker Nike.

Engelbert, former CEO of consulting giant Deloitte, says the WNBA will put the investors’ money toward driving “the league’s brand as a bold, progressive entertainment and media property that embodies diversity, promotes equity, advocates for social justice, and stands for the power of women.”