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6 Asian Sports Owners Breaking Barriers and Creating New Opportunity

From 1991 to the present day, we would go from there being zero Asian owners in American major sports to having 6, including one woman. So what changed?  We can all look to a little Japan-based video game company that decided to take a big risk.

Businessman and President of Nintendo at the time, Hiroshi Yamauchi, became the first Asian-born owner a US pro-sports franchise when he purchased the MLB’s Seattle Mariners in 1992.

His administration would go on to turn the franchise around with the likes of Ken Griffey Jr. and they even paved the way for the first Japanese star to cross over into American sports and succeed with Ichiro Suzuki in 2001.

Ichiro Suzuki

That decision paid off too as Suzuki is considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He may never have received a chance to showcase his talent on a worldwide stage if it wasn’t for this deal. 

July 1st marks the 30-year anniversary of this historic event that changed the game and while they may no longer own the Mariners, Nintendo really did

The presence and influence of Asian leadership have been imperative for opening more doors for the Asian community.  These 6 current Asian franchise owners in US pro sports are leading the way

Kim Pegula, Buffalo Bills & Sabres

Kim is a Korean-American businesswoman that was born in Seoul. At 5 years old she was adopted by an American family and needless to say she has flourished into a great success.  In 2011, she and her husband purchased the NHL franchise, Buffalo Sabres.  And they wouldn’t stop there.

Three years later they would also purchase the NFL’s storied Buffalo Bills. In 2018 she officially became President of Pegula Sports and Entertainment, which made her the first woman president in the history of both the NHL and NFL.  Her presence as an Asian-American sports owner is not only helping pave the way for people of color but for women as well.  

Kim shares her mission and the dynamic of her background

Shahid Khan, Jacksonvill Jaguars

Shahid Khan is a Pakistani-American magnate.  In 1967, at the age of 16, Khan moved to the United States.  He would go from washing dishes for $1.20 an hour to graduating college with an engineering degree. 

Khan would excel in the automotive manufacturing industry and go on to buy the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011.  Upon becoming an Asian sports owner, in 2012 he made the cover of Forbes Magazine as the face of the American dream.  

Khan tells the path of an immigrant in Pakistan at 16, to a life of champagne and luxury

Dr. Edison Miyawaki, NFL & NBA

Dr. Edison Miyawaki was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and was raised in Hiroshima, Japan.  He went on to attend high school back in Hawaii and then played baseball at Loyola. 

“Doc” has always been a sports enthusiast and even before he became one of the few Asian sports owners, he helped to assist Hawaiian student-athletes to realize their sports dreams

In 1994 he became the first Japanese-American to purchase an ownership interest in an NFL franchise.  He became a minority owner of the Cincinnati Bengals and also invested in the NBA’s Boston Celtics.  

Doc shares how hard work and serendipity lead to his success

Vivek Ranadive

Vivek Ranadive is an Indian-American business executive and philanthropist.  He grew up in Mumbai India and showed a high level of intelligence at a young age. 

He would go on to graduate from MIT with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree.  Vivek would continue to get an MBA from Harvard Business School as well.  In 2010 he became the first person of Indian descent to have ownership of an NBA franchise, the Golden State Warriors. 

In 2013 he would sell his share of the Warriors and Vivek and his partners would go on to purchase a majority share of the Sacramento Kings.  He currently holds the position of chairman with the franchise as well.  It’s wild that he arrived in a position of being an Asian sports owner as he never touched a basketball until after the age of 40.

From never touching a ball to coaching his daughter, to NBA owner

Joseph Tsai

Joseph Tsai was born in Taiwan and then became a naturalized citizen of Canada.  Tsai would attend Yale and go on to become a successful lawyer. 

His journey took a random turn and by way of his network, he partnered with Jack Ma and eventually became the executive vice-chairman of Alibaba.  In 2019, Tsai and his wife Clara would become the majority owners of the Brooklyn Nets. 

They also headed the group that owns the WNBA team New York Liberty as well as the MLS franchise LA FC.  To say Tsai embraces the role of being an Asian sports owner would be an understatement.

Joe Tsai shares how impactful the Barclay’s Center is to the community and found the Asian American Foundation

Warren Woo

Warren Woo is the founder of the National Hockey League’s Breakaway Capital Holdings.  In 2007, his group took ownership of the Nashville Predators.  A graduate of UCLA and Stanford, he found a love for hockey as he attended LA Kings games in the late 80s. 

Warren is a true fan of the sport and supports and advocates the creation of additional opportunities for people of color and for socioeconomically disadvantaged groups.  He isn’t shy about being open in regard to his Asian pride.

Warren Woo prides himself in being an Asian-American NHL owner