Suns minority owner Jahm Najafi partners with Colin Kaepernick to raise $287 million for social justice investment

Originally published by Duane Rankin, AZ Central

Phoenix Suns vice chairman and minority team owner, Jahm Najafi, has partnered with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in looking to raise up to $287 million through a special-purpose acquisition company with a social purpose in mind.

A SPAC raises money by listing on the stock exchange with a goal to locate and purchase a profitable and fast-growing company. Kaepernick will serve as co-chair with Najafi of Mission Advancement Corp., a SPAC that looks to raise up to $287.5 million in an initial public offering, according to documents filed to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Mission Advancement says it will “emphasize the racial and diversity issues Mr. Kaepernick has championed on and off the field through its investment in the growing environmental, social and governance investment field.”

The SPAC aims to target consumer businesses with an enterprise value of more than $1 billion, WSJ reported. Najafi and Kaepernick headline a board that includes Katie Beauchamp, the CEO and co-founder of Birchbox, and Omar Johnson, a former executive at Apple and Beats by Dre. 

Since 2002, Najafi has been CEO of Najafi Companies, an international private investment firm based in Phoenix with offices in New York and Los Angeles, and holdings in sectors including sports, consumer, media, technology, and real estate.

The firm is described as making “highly-selective investments in companies with strong management teams across a variety of industries, often in areas undergoing rapid technological transformation,” in Najafi’s bio on the Suns website.

Back in 2007, Najafi sold Network Solutions to another private-equity firm, General Atlantic LLC, for around $800 million, the WSJ reported back in 2007.

“Minus debt-servicing fees and other costs, Najafi says it pocketed a profit of around $700 million – a return of 35 times its invested capital after a little more than three years,” after buying $20 million of its own cash and assumed $80 million of debt to take VeriSign Inc.’s Network Solutions unit private in 2003, WSJ reported.  

Earning a Master’s degree in business economics from Harvard after a Bachelor’s degree in economics and development studies from Cal, Najafi was a partner and COO of Pivotal Group (1990-2002) and worked for Salomon Brothers Investment Banking, now a division of Citigroup, from 1986 to 1990.

According to his Suns bio, Najafi, 57, is also involved in several projects and ventures.

  • Serves on the Smithsonian Institution’s National Board
  • Active with Chief Executive and Young Presidents’ Organizations Gold.
  • Serves as chair of the Board of Trustees of Phoenix Country Day School, Arizona State University’s Committee for Design Excellence, the Board of Directors for the Phoenix Symphony and Phoenix Metropolitan Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Cal Foundation Board, as well as other civic organizations.
  • Founding partner of Social Venture Partners Arizona, a “pooled, philanthropic fund that ‘invests’ in emerging nonprofit organizations in a manner analogous to a venture capital fund investing in an emerging business.”

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