KAWASAKI - This isn’t the first ownership change in the brief history of the B. League, but in terms of sheer magnitude, it’s an unparalleled one.
Beginning from the 2018-19 season, DeNA Corporation will become the new owner of the Kawasaki Brave Thunders, currently owned by Toshiba Corporation, the two companies said during a news conference to announce the sale on Wednesday.
The ownership change for the traditional powerhouse was approved in a league board meeting earlier in the day.
Since the inauguration of the men’s top professional circuit last year, the Brave Thunders have been operated by Toshiba’s subsidiary, Toshiba Business and Life Service Corporation (TBLS). With the ownership switch, management of the team will be handled by DeNA Basketball Co. Ltd. (a tentative name), which is scheduled to be formed next month.
Masayasu Toyohara, Toshiba’s senior managing director, said at a news conference Wednesday the company came to the decision to sell the team because it “would contribute to the future of the team and league” by handing ownership to DeNA, which owns Nippon Professional Baseball’s Yokohama DeNA BayStars.
Meanwhile, Toshiba, which has suffered through a major accounting scandal that surfaced two years ago and is currently in a rebuilding phase, will retain its industrial-league baseball (Toshiba Brave Areus) and rugby (Toshiba Brave Lupus) clubs.
Under the DeNA banner, the BayStars have improved attendance for their home games by about 80 percent since the company took over as the owner in 2012. The Central League team also advanced to its first Japan Series in 19 years this fall.
Toyohara also said the information technology company, which was established in 1999, would be a good fit as the new club operator, owing to the experience and know-how gained from running the BayStars.
The new operating company plans to place its office in Kawasaki. The franchise will also continue to use Todoroki Arena as well as the team’s current practice facility and residential building for the players.
But DeNA officials did not clarify whether the team’s nickname would remain the same.
Shingo Okamura, president of the BayStars and Yokohama Stadium, said DeNA would like to energize and unify the community through the basketball team.
“Kawasaki has a population of 1.5 million, and there are so many citizens who are enthusiastic about sports,” Okamura said. “We feel great potential (to have a team) in such a great place like this.”
Nobuo Motozawa, who will run the newly-formed operating company as the president, said he was “honored” but “feels responsibility” inheriting a team with such a long history.
The Brave Thunders, who were founded in 1950, have captured four top-flight championships and three All-Japan Championship (Emperor’s Cup) titles, and finished runner-up last year in the B. League’s first season.
But Motozawa, who has been the operating director for the BayStars, added he and the new operating company would like the team to be one deeply embraced by the fans.
As seen by the example of the continuing usage of the arena and facility, both Okamura and Motozawa emphasized most of the current club structure, including the employment of staff members, would not be changed under the new ownership.
But they also said DeNA and the new operating company would discuss details of what changes might be made later.
“In a positive way, we would like to actively make changes in areas where changes need to be made,” Motozawa said.
During this past offseason, there were three ownership changes in the league, with the Nishinomiya Storks, Hiroshima Dragonflies and Kagoshima Rebnise, who were all division-two clubs in the 2016-17 campaign, changing hands.
The Brave Thunders are currently 11-8 and sitting in fourth place in the East Division this year.
B. League chairman Masaaki Okawa sees the ownership change as a positive move.
“DeNA has had big success as the owner of the BayStatrs over the last six years,” Okawa said. “We understand DeNA purchased the Brave Thunders because they thought the team would become a big enterprise in the future.
“This is an indication of their will to make basketball another major sport along with baseball in Kawasaki and Kanagawa (Prefecture).”
DeNA was a sponsor for the B. League’s Yokohama B-Corsairs in the 2016-17 season.