Athletes Launch Wall Street’s New Toy, But Not Just For Their Fans


He and his partner at Slam Corp, hedge fund manager Himanshu Gulati, are looking to acquire a business in the sports, media or health and wellness industry, but not a sports team, he said. (Mr. Rodríguez was also an investor in telehealth company Hims and Hers, which went public in a SPAC transaction that valued the firm at $ 1.6 billion last year).

Rich Kleiman, manager and business advisor to Brooklyn Nets All-Star forward Kevin Durant, said having an athlete on a SPAC advisory board could help secure a meeting with a company. Mr. Durant, he said, had been contacted about such an arrangement, but chose not to do so because he would have little control over the direction of the company.

While Durant, who with Kleiman runs a growing media and investment company, Thirty Five Ventures, has featured suitors, other athletes are struggling on their own.

Forest Road, an investment firm, was the entry point for O’Neal, who was already an investor there when he contacted its CEO, Zachary Tarica, to get involved in his growing SPAC business. O’Neal was an advisor to his first SPAC, which last month announced plans to buy Beachbody, a digital fitness company, at a valuation of $ 2.9 billion. He is now an advisor to a second Forest SPAC.

Kevin Mayer, a former Walt Disney and TikTok executive who advised the first SPAC and is helping lead the second, described Mr. O’Neal as “a true entrepreneur,” though he cautioned against investing in a particular company just because a famous person involved.

“If someone asked me, I would tell them that they should definitely not invest in this SPAC because there is a sports star or only one person,” he said. “They should look at the entire investment.”

Securities regulators have picked up on the celebrity endorsement trend, which has also attracted non-athletes ranging from Sammy Hagar to Jay-Z. The Securities and Exchange Commission issued an investor alert on March 10 warning retail investors not to buy shares in a SPAC simply because some names are attached to it in bold.

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