Game Changer: The Man Who Bought the NBL
Larry Kestelman is the immigrant turned entrepreneur who co-founded phone and internet company Dodo, which sold for a cool $230 million. He also made millions as a property developer.
In 2012 Larry decided that simply owning NBL franchise Melbourne United wasn't enough.
He decided to buy up the entire league with the intent of bringing it back to a prime-time TV slot, and putting Australian basketball back on the map.
Kestelman was born in 1966 in Odessa, Ukraine, then lived in Italy before moving to Australia with his parents at the age of 12. He struggled through school, focusing on social status rather than scholastic ability. After school, he studied accounting at a college in Victoria. Landing his first role in an accounts payable role for a small company, he worked hard.
It was at this time when he made his first foray into property development, and Kestelman's star began to rise.
Among his many achievements, the $500 million apartment complex Capitol Grand in Melbourne (with celebrity Charlize Theron the face of the project) and of course Dodo, the ISP Kestelman founded in 2001 and sold in 2013 for just under $230 million. His estimated personal wealth is around $750 million.
And wealth brings an ability to influence the things you're passionate about.
Kestelman has been watching the steady decline of basketball in Australia, despite the high level of talent, and had to do something. Teams had gone broke or merged, many were in debt of more than a million dollars. However, in Perth, the league still had great potential.
He placed his $7 million offer to take control of the league, and after some resistance it was his.
What followed was a major facelift for the NBL. He set out a 100-day plan to revamp every aspect to the league. What Kestelman achieved in that time is astonishing.
New executives were appointed, new sponsors were found, a new logo and a new Brisbane team was formed. The NBL digital platforms were given an update, a redeveloped website and online streaming was made available.
One of the biggest successes for his vision was a new deal with Nine Entertainment Co to show a live match every week and Fox Sports to broadcast every game live. This level of television exposure was a real game changer in pushing the league into prime time.
Now Kestelman has international dreams for the league in the pipeline. Already he has facilitated games between NBL clubs against NBA and Asian teams. The possibility of selling NBL television rights to overseas markets and even including Asian teams in the league are on the agenda.
Currently he is proud of what he has achieved, stating he’s well ahead of the three-year plan for the league. But one thing's for sure, he's not done yet.
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