August 19, 2009

Venus and Serena to own part of Miami Dolphins

Venus and Serena Williams will become the latest celebrities to own a stake in the Miami Dolphins, a person familiar with the deal said Wednesday. The person didn’t want to be identified because the team plans an announcement Tuesday. Another person close to the negotiations said an agreement was near but not yet final. That person also didn’t want to be identified because the announcement has not be made. The Williamses live in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., about an hour’s drive from the Dolphins’ stadium. Their new role will be significant in part because the NFL has no African-American majority team owner.

Musicians Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Marc Anthony recently bought small shares of the team. New Dolphins owner Stephen Ross also forged a partnership with singer Jimmy Buffett. The Dolphins have said the involvement of the celebrities reflects the diversity of South Florida and shows that the franchise is connected with the community. A Dolphins spokesman said the team had no comment regarding next week’s announcement.

The Williams sisters have combined to win 18 Grand Slam titles, and they staged their latest sibling showdown last month at Wimbledon, where Serena beat Venus in the final. Serena has won 11 major titles and Venus seven.
Ross, a New York real estate billionaire, completed his purchase of the Dolphins from Wayne Huizenga in January and began a partnership in May with Buffett. The agreement with the Estefans was announced in June, followed by the deal with Anthony last month. Buffett and the Estefans are longtime Dolphins fans. The Williams sisters aren’t known to closely follow the Dolphins or the NFL. Ross has said the minority owners are strategic partners and aren’t being brought aboard because of a financial need. He has pledged to improve the fan experience at games, and the celebrities will help—although it’s unlikely the sisters will be staging tennis exhibitions at halftime.

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