Public Markets SPAC Venture

Athletes And Celebrities Join The SPAC Boom, SEC Takes Notice

A handful of professional athletes and other high-profile figures have joined the SPAC boom, prompting the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to caution investors about investing in special purpose acquisition companies associated with celebrities.

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Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, Golden State Warriors player Stephen Curry, tennis champion Serena Williams, and former pro baseball player Alex Rodriguez are some of the notable professional athletes who have been involved in SPACs in some capacity. Former San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick, now an activist, also formed a SPAC focusing on social justice.

“Celebrity involvement in a SPAC does not mean that the investment in a particular SPAC or SPACs generally is appropriate for all investors,” the notice from the SEC, posted Wednesday, read. “Celebrities, like anyone else, can be lured into participating in a risky investment or may be better able to sustain the risk of loss. It is never a good idea to invest in a SPAC just because someone famous sponsors or invests in it or says it is a good investment.”

SPACs are blank-check companies formed with the intent to acquire a private company and take it public. They gained popularity last year, with several notable companies going public through SPACs, including Virgin Galactic and DraftKings

Last year, SPACs raised more than $83 billion in gross proceeds. This year, they’ve raised more than $78.7 billion in gross proceeds, and we’re not even halfway through March. 

Some of the celebrities who are associated with SPACs aren’t necessarily new to the world of venture capital or investing in startups. Shaq’s invested in a number of companies, perhaps most notably Google’s Series A in 1999. Both Curry and Williams are investors in connected fitness startup Tonal, and Williams also invests in companies through her venture capital firm Serena Ventures.

Notable Celebrity-Associated SPACs

Jaws Spitfire Acquisition Corp.

Slam Corp.

  • Celebrity association: Alex Rodriguez is the CEO.
  • Other notable people: Antara Capital founder Himanshu Gulati.

Dune Acquisition Corp.

  • Celebrity association: Steph Curry is part of the SPAC team.
  • Other notable people: Jeron Smith, co-founder of Unanimous Media (with Steph Curry).

Bright Lights Acquisition Corp.

Forest Road Acquisition Corp. II

  • Celebrity association: Shaquille O’Neal serves as a strategic adviser.
  • Other notable people: Former Disney exec and brief TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer, Martin Luther King III.
  • Note: This is the second SPAC Shaq has been part of. The first, Forest Road Acquisition Corp., took Beachbody public earlier this year.

Mission Advancement Corp.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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