Backed by a dedicated group of investors that includes David Blitzer, Angela Ruggiero, and Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s 35V, Athletes Unlimited will continue to disrupt the world of women’s sports.
Be prepared to hear a lot more about Athletes Unlimited.
On Thursday, the network of women’s professional sports leagues announced a successful $30 million capital fundraising backed by a diverse group of investors with influence inside the world of sports and beyond.
Since its launch in 2020, Athletes Unlimited has expanded from one to four sports, including volleyball, softball, basketball, and lacrosse. The leagues enable a new style of play, which puts athletes first and disrupts the games, quite literally, with unique rules and operations.
In addition to providing expanded opportunities for post-collegiate athletes, Athletes Unlimited enables unparalleled innovation as it relates to athlete compensation and well-being, environmentally conscious operations, and philanthropy.
Since AU’s inception, 35V co-founders Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman signed on as early supporters of the mission. Now, they have formalized their support with their participation in the fundraising round.
“Kevin [Durant], Rich [Kleiman], Sarah [Flynn], and the entire 35V team have been an important part of the Athletes Unlimited Advisory Board from the very beginning. We’re thrilled they are participating in our first outside capital raise,” Athletes Unlimited CEO Jon Patricof told Boardroom. “We look forward to working with them to continue to grow Athletes Unlimited. They bring a unique athlete-driven perspective on all aspects of the sports industry.”
Other advisory board members include retired USWNT legend Abby Wambach, past President of the United States Tennis Association Katrina Adams, and sports broadcaster Taylor Rooks.
“We have been advisors for AU since the very beginning, and we’re excited to be a part of this capital raise. Athletes Unlimited is at the forefront of women’s sports and an inspiration for how sports leagues can thrive with an athlete-first business model,” Durant said.
“Every pro sports league should take note of what AU is doing, especially the pathway for athletes to have a financial stake in their own leagues,” Kleiman added.
The successful fundraise was led by Schusterman Family Investments and also includes film producer Sharon Harel-Cohen, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Devils, and Cleveland Guardians owner David Blitzer, four-time US Olympic hockey player Angela Ruggiero, and Jane Gottesman.
This investment marks the start of a new era for Athletes Unlimited. To date, the organization formalized partnerships with major sponsors, including Nike, ESPN, and Gatorade. However, it will continue to maintain a focus on creating impact at the grassroots level, too.
“I think 2023 will be a big year for us. It’s going to be an opportunity for Athletes Unlimited to meet our goals past national coverage, but also do things on the ground in our communities,” Patricof added. “Having raised this amount of money in a short amount of time signifies the confidence that our partners have in us. This will, furthermore, allow us to accomplish the objectives we had in mind when we started in March 2020.”
“We’re hoping to have more leagues represented on national television and have our women athletes also be able to serve as brand leaders and connect with players of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds across the country and hopefully the world,” he said.
In 2022, AU launched its basketball league, which included a deep slate of WNBA talent, including Natasha Cloud, Courtney Williams, and Sydney Colson.
Athletes Unlimited represents the best of sports, and the new influx of funds will help further a greater mission to enrich the lives of adolescent girls, women, and fans with a vested interest in niche sports leagues.
As it looks to 2023 and beyond, the opportunities are endless.
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