September 24, 2022

The morning after the Nets’ Play-In game victory in April, Rich Kleiman said he received a text message from Kevin Durant. In it, Durant pitched Kleiman a young designer from Philadelphia he wanted Boardroom to partner with for a capsule collection.

This, Kleiman said, is not irregular. Durant has a daily interest in Boardroom, the media company he and Kleiman have created and grown over the past few years. Kleinman too.

“I’m involved in everything,” he says proudly.

At a time when professional athletes and their business partners regularly enter the media in the middle of their careers, whether with personal podcasts or video series, Boardroom carries more intrigue and greater scale. Kleiman said he is at the center of 35V, the investment and philanthropy firm that has already made it a resounding success in venture capital.

What started as a conversational talk show series on ESPN in 2018 has now morphed into a larger operation. Boardroom offers podcasts — Durant and Kleiman each present shows — as well as thriving social media channels and video content. Last week, he announced a new documentary about the New York ringleaders.

There’s also something rarer among their peers: their own digital news site, Boardroom.tv. The website sits in the middle of the entire media web that Durant and Kleiman have built and its entry into digital news media, a volatile industry.

Kleiman understands the concerns. He said that years ago, when considering investing in companies, whenever he came across a digital media company, he viewed it as an outdated business model. For Boardroom, he said that’s just part of the many media products they offer – and part of 35V, which also runs Durant’s Nike business and production business and includes his stake. of 10% in the Philadelphia Union and its recent investment in Gotham. CF. (Durant was not made available for this story.)

“We have the access, we have the audience, we have the connectivity,” Kleiman said. “So yes, we’ve built a traditional digital media brand. But it’s part of a global business and involves venture capital that involves traditional film and television, that involves a Nike shoe company for 15 years and involves gaming tournaments we run. The platform is the anchor of it all. If that in itself were our only core business, I would understand what you’re saying. But when you look at it at the center of this whole economy that we’ve built, this 35V business, it’s driving everything.

Boardroom has grown since the pandemic began and now has 25 employees. It has a director of editorial strategy, Bernadette Doykos, and a team of writers and social media creators. While NBA players now regularly have their own podcast feeds — think CJ McCollum, Draymond Green, and the one JJ Redick started during his career — Boardroom takes things a step further. Perhaps the best analog is SpringHill Co., LeBron James’ video production company that now produces shows and movies. Boardroom doesn’t have that kind of scale yet, but Durant and Kleiman landed a show on Apple TV, and Durant in March won an Oscar as executive producer for “Two Distant Strangers.”

Boardrom was envisioned in its early days as a way to shine a light on the conversations athletes were having off the field, but the format of the unscripted series didn’t allow it to move fast enough. Last year, Boardroom got more serious about editorial operations and created a one-stop destination for everything under its banner. Kleiman sees the company’s mission as a cross section for sports and music that also delves into technology, business, sneakers, and cryptocurrency — as well as what leaders in those industries are discussing. The business of women’s sports is a major point of interest. Kyrie Irving may appear on Durant’s podcast, but Boardroom won’t cover the Nets.

Recently, there have been interviews with famous entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk and obscure sportsmen like the world’s number 1 darts player. There were articles about how recent NBA champions built their rosters and the new Jonas Brothers subscription service. In May, Boardroom said it reached 2.5 million unique views, with an audience of men and those under 34.

Kleiman sees Complex, HYPEBEAST and Forbes as models of what his company wants to embody, not just in content, but in the relevance it brings to the ecosystems it covers.

“We’re also creating a conversation that we’re covering, and it’s important for us to keep spreading that,” he said. “Looking at Boardroom, the brand, from that perspective, you can’t be scared off by the digital media landscape because I believe brand, now more than ever, is crucial due to oversaturation and overpopulation. content offerings across social and streaming services A strong brand that means something and stands for something with a global superstar rooted in KD and the team we’ve built here, you know to me that’s very close of the future.

Boardroom, of course, isn’t the first media company to cover both sports and culture. It has already been done. But Durant and Kleiman serve as an inflection point. Kleiman points out that this is not just a media platform, but also a brand and an extension of other businesses the duo already owns and who they are. Kleiman said it reflected their voices — and his is that of a New York native in his 40s who has come through the music industry.

Durant and Kleiman can book guests for the site and their podcasts that others might not be able to. 35V has investments in a number of companies, and Boardroom will cover them, or use its reach with them, to gain access to its stories. Coinbase, in which Durant is a longtime investor, has been written about several times, and he is an advertiser on the site. When Durant’s latest signature shoe was released in April, Boardroom got an “inside peek.”

The boardroom, Kleiman said, is meant to be a hub of information in the many industries she explores, not a place of criticism. Kleiman doesn’t plan on delving into “negative stories.”

“That’s not the spirit of this platform,” he said. “This is an ambitious entrepreneurial platform. It is a platform that is here to showcase all that is happening in and around the culture of sports and music. So, there are enough platforms and channels dedicated to telling us all this negative news and criticizing athletes and criticizing their behavior. There’s also room for the platforms to not have that, and I think we may not like one deal as much as another or we may have a comment on the state of something in the industry, but to the extent that someone comes to our platform to talk about their business or a new partnership or Venus Williams shows up for a new plant-based protein shake, like, we’re not here to do something other than give them their flowers and continue to connect people.

There’s something else unusual about Boardroom. Kleiman and Durant, in particular, were the subjects of the media for a long time before becoming their purveyors. Sometimes it can become sensational or negative.

Kleiman said these experiences did not influence Boardroom’s appearance, however. On the contrary, it is his passage on social networks in recent years that has marked him. During the pandemic, he’s seen people go there and talk about their businesses or their investments and what they’ve been working on, taking the opportunity to flex a bit.

He wanted to build a place that would reflect that.

“I thought there was a really sophisticated way to do this for the whole athlete community and now for the whole music community, and integrating with all of our access to technology and business. “Kleiman said. “I thought it was unique, and I’m excited to see where we are because the voice and tone we captured and the range of things we cover is exactly what we envisioned.”

(Photo by Kevin Durant, Mark Ronson and Rich Kleiman: Johnny Nunez/WireImage)