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Can NBA’s Antetokounmpo Score Big with New ETF Partnership?

By just about any measure, NBA forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has been a winning investment for the Milwaukee Bucks. When they selected him as the 15th overall pick in the  2013 draft, Antetokounmpo was a skinny, little-known 18-year-old from Greece who had a lot of upside, but also a lot of question marks. Nine years later, Antetokounmpo is one of the best players in the NBA, a six-time All-Star with two MVP awards and one NBA title. 

Photo Courtesy NBA

While the Bucks have made a big investment in Antetokounmpo – paying him nearly $40 million last season alone – the so-called “Greek Freak” has been busy making investments of his own. Two years ago, he made his first brand investment in the emerging nutrition company Ready Nutrition, Forbes reported.

Now, Antetokounmpo is upping his investment game by partnering with Illinois-based investment manager Calamos Investments to launch a new ESG exchange-traded fund.

Photo Courtesy NBA

The fund, announced in late August, is called the Calamos Antetokounmpo Sustainable Equities Trust and is co-managed by Calamos senior vice presidents James Madden and Anthony Tursich. Investors in the fund will put their money toward companies that adhere to environmental, social, and governance standards determined internally.

As ETF.com reported, the fund will avoid investing in companies that generate more than 5% of their revenue from activities such as tobacco and weapons, alcohol, animal testing, and metals and mining. It also will exclude companies that are involved in gambling and nuclear energy, according to an SEC filing. 

Photo Courtesy Calamos

“The shared values between Calamos Investments and Giannis Antetokounmpo forge the foundation for a great partnership,” Jessica Fernandez, chief marketing officer at Calamos, said in a press release. “Together, we are creating a sustainable fund and will seek to generate investment and societal returns.”

The investment continues the financial evolution of Antetokounmpo, who reportedly had more than four dozen bank accounts before Bucks co-owner and Avenue Capital Group founder Marc Lasry helped him straighten out his finances. Last year, Antetokounmpo acquired a minority stake in the Milwaukee Brewers and also invested in Watchbox, a luxury watch platform.

For Calamos, the new ETF expands its lineup of sustainable investments, which also includes the Calamos Global Sustainable Equities Fund.

According to the Wall Street Journal, that fund holds about $7 million in client assets.

Calamos has more than $40 billion in total assets under management. The firm was founded in 1977 and is headquartered in the Chicago metro area. It also has offices in New York, San Francisco, Milwaukee, and the Miami area. It offers investments in equities, fixed income, convertibles, and alternatives.

Calamos hired Tursich and Madden in August of 2021 to lead the firm’s development of sustainable investment products. The pair previously worked at Portfolio 21, where they developed one of the first sustainable research platforms in 1999. 

Their hiring coincided with a boom in the market for ESG funds. In 2021, U.S. ESG mutual fund and ETF assets hit a record $400 billion, up 33% from the year before, according to research from ISS Market Intelligence. Things have slowed down this year, however. ESG mutual funds and ETFs lured a net $120 billion in the first half of 2022, according to a report from Qontigo that cited Morningstar data. That was about one-third of the flows over the same period a year earlier.

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