Tesla chair teams up with billionaire NBL owner to buy Australia’s women’s basketball league


Tesla chair Robyn Denholm has teamed up with National Basketball League owner Larry Kestelman to take a controlling stake in the Women’s National Basketball League.
Robyn Denholm on stage at the Forbes Australia Women’s Summit. Image: Forbes

Denholm’s family office, Wollemi Capital Group Syndicate, has formed a consortium with Kestelman’s National Basketball League – which controls the men’s comp – to buy the majority interest in the national women’s competition from Basketball Australia, which will maintain a minority interest in the league.

The deal will come into effect after the 2024/25 season.

Wollemi Capital will take 49% and Kestelman’s NBL will take 29%. No price was given but Basketball Australia had previously said the women’s league was worth $30 million to $35 million.

Despite a strong on-field competition, the game has been in financial difficulties for years, forcing Basketball Australia to seek a buyer in April.

WNBL franchises lost a total of $5 million between them in the 2023 financial year, News Ltd reported.

Denholm, a partner in VC firm Blackbird, also owns a share of men’s basketball franchise the Sydney Kings and women’s team, the Sydney Flames.

Kestelman – a Ukraine-born property developer who founded the Dodo mobile phone company in 2001 – bought a 51 per cent stake in the National Basketball League in 2015 for $7 million, the year after Dodo sold for a reported $204 million to the M2 Group.

Head of WNBL Christy Collier-Hill , MP Rita Saffioti, MP Hannah Beazley and Basketball Australia CEO Matt Scriven during a NBL & Basketball Australia media opportunity at South Perth Foreshore on May 24, 2024 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Stefan Gosatti/Getty Images for NBL)

His ownership of the men’s league has since grown to 94%. His net worth was estimated at $1.27 billion by the Australian Financial Review.

He foreshadowed changes to the league in announcing the buyout.

“We are proud to be part of a group that will now have an opportunity to rethink what the best version of the WNBL can look like, and set the direction for the future as we did for the NBL,” Kestelman said in a statement. “We believe this is a truly exciting proposition for us, the players, the fans, and everyone involved.

“The female athletes in the sport, as well as younger girls aspiring for greatness, deserve better and we believe we can, with time, deliver something to be proud of, but do not underestimate the work and challenges ahead.”


Denholm, a chartered accountant who grew up in Lugano in Sydney’s south, rose through the ranks of Toyota, before moving to the US to work for Sun Microsystems and Juniper Networks before joining the board of Tesla in 2014. She became chair in 2019. Wollemi Capital bought 30% stakes in the Sydney Kings and Sydney Flames in 2022

Denholm was upbeat about the prospects of the women’s game.

“Women’s Basketball in Australia has a phenomenal history and an even brighter future; we are excited to be a major part of the syndicate that will guide the future direction as well as provide the right level of support and investment needed in the sport for decades to come,” Denholm said in a media release.

“There is much work to be done to transform the league into a platform that our amazing female players, clubs, fans and all involved richly deserve.”

Robyn Denholm

Under the new ownership structure, the consortium will take control of the league from April 2, 2025.

NBL CEO David Stevenson said the next few months would be spent “listening and learning” before any changes were made.

“We are excited and feel privileged to be the new custodians of Australia’s oldest women’s professional sports competition, and we believe this group is best placed to bring sustained success and unprecedented growth,” Stevenson said.

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