Will “Motley Crew” Band of Financiers Drive Celts to Banner 17?

6/5/08Follow @bbuderi

I love hoops. Bill Aulet of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center, no slouch himself on the hardwood, calls me “Danger.” I like to think it’s because whenever I go up for the J, the other team is in danger—due to my dead-eye shooting. But some say, especially these days, it’s simply dangerous for other players when I take the court…

Whatever. In any case, my passion for basketball has me chomping at the bit as the NBA finals begin tonight—pitting the mighty Boston Celtics against Kobe, et al. And, also thanks to my love for hoops, I was delighted—and kicked myself for not writing the story myself—when I saw last weekend’s Wall Street Journal article about Banner 17, the band of 25-odd financiers who own the C’s and have the goal of taking the team to its 17th NBA championship, and what would be its first in 22 years. Yes, it has been that long since Larry Bird (and current Celtics general manager Danny Ainge) led the Celts to the 1985-86 title.

The article (in case you spent last weekend not reading the Journal), all too briefly follows the story of Wyc Grousbeck, CEO of the Celtics and a venture partner at Highland Capital Partners in Lexington, MA, Stephen Pagliuca, managing director of Bain Capital Private Equity, and others. Both Grousbeck and Pagliuca, by the way, made Xconomy’s VC Varsity roster as top athletes in the local venture and private equity scene: Grousbeck made the second team, Pagliuca was an honorable mention, along with fellow Bain managing director Joshua Bekenstein.

But back to Banner 17. The Celtics owners, says the WSJ piece, ponied up an average of $10 million apiece for the privilege of front-row seats (worth $1,400 each) and other perks of ownership (the Journal says Pagliuca, Grousbeck, and Grousbeck’s father, Irving, bought the team for $360 million in 2002 and have since selectively sold off slices to key investors). The article quotes New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft as calling Banner 17 “the most amazing ownership group I’ve ever seen.”

But I especially liked this paragraph: “They are a motley bunch, sometimes competing directly against one another for deals. Each has varying opinions on what their stake represents. A number view themselves as trustees of a Boston institution. Others admit that as an investment, the Celtics wouldn’t stand up to their own firms’ investing criteria.”

I bet that will change, especially if the team brings home that 17th banner. Go Celts!

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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  • Steve Woit

    Hey, what about Bill Helman, Partner at Greylock? I believe he is also an investor in the Celtics.