Burbank investment org buys 80% of Trotters franchise

HOLLYWOOD — The Burbank Globetrotters?

Burbank-based Shamrock Capital Growth Fund, the investment org of the Roy E. Disney family, has bought a controlling interest in the Harlem Globetrotters.

Shamrock is acquiring 80% of the storied entertainment-basketball fran-chise in a deal aimed at expanding the team’s worldwide merchandising, licensing and sponsorships.

Former owner Mannie Jackson, a one-time Globetrotter himself, will retain 20% ownership of the team.

It’s not the first time the team has been controlled by an entertainment investor. Metromedia had controlling interest in the 1970s and ’80s, and the team even got its own Hanna-Barbera toon skein. They were also featured on other animated shows and telepic “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilli-gan’s Island.”

Shamrock, founded in 1998 by Walt Disney’s nephew Roy and Stanley Gold, has invested more than $550 million in U.S. media, entertainment and communications ventures.

The Globetrotters were founded as a serious basketball team in 1927 in Chicago and didn’t become a comedy act until the 1950s.

Their popularity slumped in the 1980s but revived after Jackson bought the team in 1993, seeing double-digit growth for 12 consecutive seasons.

Under Jackson’s leadership, the team returned to playing some serious, competitive games against college and pro teams in addition to vying with perennial losers the New York Nationals.

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