Houston Rockets star James Harden has joined the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo (MLS), Houston Dash (NWSL), and BBVA Stadium, the organization announced Thursday.
On the court, Harden was the 2018 NBA Most Valuable Player and has led the United States to gold medals at the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2014 FIBA World Cup. The 29-year-old joined the Houston Rockets ahead of the 2012-13 season and has been named an NBA All-Star in each season while leading the team to the playoffs every year. Harden has earned first-team All-NBA honors in five of the past six seasons.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future,” Harden said. “Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime. I’ve been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose.”
Harden joins an ownership group led by Gabriel Brener, who purchased the majority share of the team in December 2015. Born in Mexico City, Brener is the only Mexican-born owner of a major league American professional sports team. He is the CEO of the Brener International Group, a private investment firm and family office with global business and investment interests.
“We are thrilled to welcome James into our club. He’s an icon in the Houston community, and not only is he a great basketball player, he has an extremely smart and savvy mind for business,” Brener said. “James will bring a very unique perspective to our ownership group, and I’m looking forward to hearing his thoughts and opinions on the club going forward.”
Major League Soccer has grown from 10 teams in its inaugural season of 1996 to 24 clubs this season and has recently announced its intention to expand to 30 clubs in the coming years. The 25th, 26th and 27th clubs to join MLS have already been announced as Nashville SC, set to join next year, and Inter Miami CF and Austin FC, which are slated to enter the league in 2021.
MLS boasts the youngest fanbase among the major American professional sports leagues to go along with the youngest average player age of any league in the United States. The average MLS club valuation has increased nearly 650 percent over the past decade, and 20 of the league’s 24 clubs have built or renovated their stadiums specifically for soccer matches.
As a native of Los Angeles and a gold medal-winning professional athlete, Harden already has two things in common with another member of the club’s ownership group, Oscar De La Hoya. De La Hoya founded Golden Boy Promotions in 2002 after a legendary career in the ring in which he captured 10 world titles and won gold at the 1992 Olympics.
“James is already at the top of the game in his sport, so it’s only natural to want to take on new challenges beyond the court,” De La Hoya said. “He knows the drive and the determination it takes to be the absolute best, and I’m excited that he’s going to bring that attitude to our club.”
Harden also joins Ben Guill, the Managing Partner of White Deer Energy, a Houston-based energy private equity fund with $2.2 billion in committed capital, and Jake Silverstein, a private investor based in Portland, Oregon. Silverstein leads Stormlight Expeditions, the Silverstein family’s private investment platform.
Harden was represented in this transaction by business manager Lorenzo McCloud along with True Capital management, while the Dynamo and Dash were represented by Brener Group Chief Operating Officer and club Executive Vice President Chris Hopkins.
The shooting guard adds another high-profile investment to his already impressive portfolio, which includes the sports drink BodyArmor, Art of Sport (A.O.S.), a body- and skin-care brand tailored specifically for athletes, and the sock company Stance, among others.
On the field, Harden joins a club with a rich history of competing for and winning championships. Since their inception in 2006, the Dynamo have captured three domestic titles, including winning the MLS Cup in the club’s first two years of existence and the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Dynamo have advanced to at least the semifinal round of major domestic tournaments eight times in 13 years, including seven appearances in the Conference Championship round of the Audi MLS Cup playoffs and four trips to the MLS Cup Final. The club has represented Houston in international competition on seven occasions, including this spring in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League.
The Houston Dash are in their sixth season under the guidance of first-year head coach James Clarkson. Led by stars such as forwards Kealia Ohai and England international Rachel Daly, the Dash are aiming for their first playoff berth this fall.
Image courtesy Houston Dynamo.