LA Lakers, valued at $3.7bn, pay back Covid-19 small business relief loan

  • 16-time NBA champs are world’s eighth-most valuable team
  • Team have not played since shutdown of sports in March

The Lakers feature star players such as LeBron James






The Lakers feature star players such as LeBron James.
Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

The Los Angeles Lakers have repaid a loan of roughly $4.6m from coronavirus business relief funds after learning the program had been depleted.

The Lakers applied for the loan under the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, a part of the federal government’s $2.2tn stimulus package. The Lakers’ request was granted in the first round of distribution, but after the fund ran out of money in less than two weeks, the team returned its loan, as did several wealthier business including Shake Shack and AutoNation.

“The Lakers qualified for and received a loan under the Payroll Protection Program,” the Lakers said in a statement on Monday. “However, once we found out the funds from the program had been depleted, we repaid the loan so that financial support would be directed to those most in need. The Lakers remain completely committed to supporting both our employees and our community.”

The Treasury Department issued further guidance for the loan program last week, asking companies not to apply for the funds if they don’t need the cash to survive.

“I’m not a big fan of the fact that they took $4.6m,” the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, told CNBC. “I think that’s outrageous.”

Mnuchin added he “would have never expected in a million years that the Los Angeles Lakers” would take such a loan. He also said he was “glad” the team returned the money, “or they would have had liability.”

The Lakers qualified for the program because they have only about 300 employees. But last year Forbes estimated the team was worth $3.7bn, making it the eighth-most valuable team in the world just behind the New England Patriots and Manchester United.

The 16-time NBA champions play in the nation’s second-largest media market, and the team, led by superstars LeBron James and Antony Davis, were on top of the Western Conference when the NBA suspended play last month.

The Lakers haven’t furloughed or fired any employees during the coronavirus pandemic, and the franchise doesn’t plan to make any cutbacks. The team’s top executives agreed to defer 20% of their salaries until later this year or early next year.

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