Wednesday, October 27News That Matters

Athletes Pitch Wall Street’s Hot New Toy, but Not Just to Their Fans

He and his partner in Slam Corp, the 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. Rodriguez was also an investor in the telehealth company Hims and Hers, which went public in a SPAC transaction valuing the firm at $1.6 billion last year.)

Rich Kleiman, manager and business adviser to Kevin Durant, the All-Star forward for the Brooklyn Nets, said having an athlete on an advisory board of a SPAC might help get a meeting with a company. Mr. Durant, he said, had been approached about such an arrangement but decided against it because he would have little control over the company’s direction.

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

Forest Road, an investment firm, was the entry point for Mr. O’Neal, who was already an investor there when he contacted its chief executive, Zachary Tarica, about getting involved in its growing SPAC business. Mr. O’Neal was an adviser on its first SPAC, which last month announced plans to buy Beachbody, a digital fitness company, at a $2.9 billion valuation. He’s now an adviser on 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 real businessman,” although he cautioned against investing in a particular venture just because a famous person was involved.

“If anyone were to ask me, I say you should definitely not invest in this SPAC because there’s a sports star or any single person,” he said. “They should look at the totality of the investment.”

Securities regulators have taken notice of the celebrity-endorsement trend, which has also attracted nonathletes ranging from Sammy Hagar to Jay-Z. The Securities and Exchange Commission put out an investor alert on March 10 cautioning retail investors not to buy shares of a SPAC simply because some boldface names are attached to it.