US basketball legend raises $1.3bn infrastructure fund

The world of roads and sewerage systems is not known for attracting celebrities, but the former US basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson (pictured) has raised $1.3bn in capital to put into American infrastructure projects.

He says he wants to tap into a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure investment campaign announced by President Obama.

Best known for his 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, during which his team won five NBA championships and he personally won three "most valuable player" awards, Johnson retired from sport in 1991 after contracting HIV, and has since devoted his time to business interests and philanthropy.

One of his projects, Magic Johnson Enterprises, is active in "urban planning and developing creative business solutions to drive unparalleled results for our clients and partners", its website says.

Taking a shot at infrastructure, last year the 56-year-old formed a joint venture between Magic Johnson Enterprises and a Chicago-based investment bank called Loop Capital, called JLC Loop Capital Partners.

The JV hit upon unexpected success this year, when a single investor pledged $1bn, prompting Johnson to resign from the board of Square, a mobile payment and financial services company, so he could focus on the fund.

According to USA Today, he explained his happy predicament in his letter of resignation to Square founder Jack Dorsey.

Johnson said: "As you may know, President Obama announced that the federal government would spend $7-12 trillion on US infrastructure over the next 10 years. With this in mind, I launched an infrastructure fund, JLC Loop Capital Partners, to take advantage of the development opportunities nationally.

"Initially I thought it would take some time to raise capital, however, my team and I were fortunate that the first investor we approached invested $1bn. Within the first quarter of 2016, we have over $1.3bn that will require a significant and unwavering time commitment from me as I work to secure contracts around the country."

Dorsey responded by thanking the former basketball star.

"Earvin’s passion for and commitment to creating economic opportunity will continue to inspire our work" he said. "I am thankful for his time on our Board and wish him success on his new projects."

Johnson has not said what type of infrastructure the fund will invest in.

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