Steve Nash and Robert Sarver purchased majority of Real Mallorca
Club operated in La Liga for 16 years before going bust
Currently sits in 14th place of Segunda Division
For most famous retirees, the question is, where are they now?
For Steve Nash, the question is more like, where isn’t he?
The two-time NBA MVP hung up his high-tops in 2015, but maintained a healthy dose of off-court interests during his 18-year career.
Shortly afterward he bought a minority stake in the MLS’s Vancouver Whitecaps, the team his brother Martin captained. Since then, he’s only gotten busier.
In 2012 Nash became the general manager of Canada’s senior men’s basketball team, and last year took on a consultant’s role with the Golden State Warriors – where he was reportedly instrumental in luring Kevin Durant.
His latest challenge, however, may be his toughest: Resurrecting the once proud Spanish soccer team, Real Mallorca.
Nash is part of an American investor group, led by Phoenix Suns’ owner Robert Sarver, that purchased a controlling stake in the club for $21 million in January.
Suddenly, one of the greatest point-guards in basketball history became the least likely face of a European football club.
“We love the sport,” the 42-year-old Nash tells CNN of his investor group. “We have fallen in love with the history of the club, and the fans and the island and the uniqueness of the Balearics.
“We are thrilled to be a part of it, and hopefully leave it in a much better place than where we found it one day many, many years for now,” he adds.
“This isn’t a flip for us, this is something that we are passionate about and want to see succeed.”
Mallorca played in La Liga for 16 seasons, but ran into financial problems and declared bankruptcy in 2010.
Although the club had some money pumped into it by local superfan Rafael Nadal – and his uncle Miguel Angel Nadal, who once starred for the club – it was relegated to the second tier of Spanish football three years later.
Considering the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona are worth upwards of $3 billion each, buying into a club aspiring to return to La Liga for about one percent of their value was too good an opportunity to pass up for Nash and Co.
“In Spain, it was more of our sweet spot,” says Nash, who explained that the Suns’ ownership group looked at Premier League and second tier teams in England, but “didn’t want that sort of financial responsibility.”
“(Real Mallorca) was a reasonably priced team that had a great history on a beautiful island that had a good youth set up,” Nash says. “I think it had been undermanaged, so to speak, for the last decade or so.
“So it was an opportunity where we could bring a lot to the table, and we could help the club – not only with some capital, but with our best practices (in) marketing and sporting-wise from the NBA.”
European football is littered with overseas ownership – including Americans with interests in clubs as diverse as Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Swansea, Crystal Palace, and Roma.
Some, like late Manchester United owner Robert Glazer and former Liverpool owners Robert Gillette and Tom Hicks, were accused of burdening their teams with debt and profiting off the back of supporters’ wallets.
Nash is quick to point out that his group’s interests are strictly football related.
“I think that we have to gain (the fans’) trust, and I think a lot of times they are worried about a horror story of an American group coming in and buying a soccer team, only to want to develop hotels or condominiums,” he says. “That’s not our goal.”
Nash’s involvement with Mallorca has already taken on a far more personal role than his hands-off investment with the Whitecaps.
He has made several trips to the island, and engaged in training sessions with the team and its fans. He regularly interacts with the club’s supporters on Twitter, and is very much the board’s ambassador.
“I think that’s always tricky (with) owners and fans,” he explains. “I’m in a unique position, because I was a player – and I’m not necessarily a businessman – so there is a little bit of a different dynamic there, and room for interaction.”
Thirteen games into the season, Real Mallorca is tied for 14th place in the 22 team Segunda Division.
Dreams of La Liga glory are probably a longshot for Mallorca this season, but stability – by way of the NBA – looks like it’s there to stay.
Drops reference in headline to La Liga