Naomi Osaka launches media company with LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s SpringHill

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Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka is getting into the entertainment business by starting a media company in partnership with LeBron James and Maverick Carter’s SpringHill Company.

Osaka and her longtime agent and business partner Stuart Duguid are behind the production banner, which is called Hana Kuma. Osaka and Duguid also launched their own athlete representation banner in May.

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Hana Kuma (hana means “flower” and kuma means “bear” in Japanese) “will produce culturally specific yet universal stories for all audiences; playful and bold in its approach to tackling important issues in society,” the company says.

“There was an explosion of color makers finally equipped with resources and a huge platform,” says Osaka. “In the age of streaming, content has a more holistic perspective. You can see this in the popularity of television from Asia, Europe and Latin America that the unique can also be universal. My story also testifies to this. I’m so excited about what we’re building at Hana Kuma. We’ll bring stories to life with this goal in mind: to make unique perspectives feel universal and inspire people along the way. »

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And he already has several projects in the works, including a documentary series set at Epix with Osaka, James, and Carter serving as executive producers.

The first project under the Hana Kuma banner will be MINK!next one New York Times Director Ben Proudfoot’s Op-Doc on Patsy Mink, the first woman of color elected to Congress, and the author and sponsor of Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in schools that receive government funding.

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Chavonne LeNoir, who most recently directed unscripted at Vice Media and previously worked at Disney and MGM, will lead development for Hana Kuma.

SpringHill will provide production, development and other strategic resources to Hana Kuma, pursuing a strategy of building a business model “to center athletes as creators” and “to act as an incubator for athletes who want to create and tell stories beyond their sport in creativity. , impactful and thought-provoking,” the company states.

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SpringHill raised a new round of funding last year from Nike, RedBird Capital and Epic Games in a deal that valued Carter and James’ company at $725 million. An important purpose of this funding was to give SpringHill the cash needed to invest in new creators.

Celebrity-focused production companies have become a hot source of investment in recent years, led by companies like SpringHill, Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Overbrook. With a willingness to sell to any network or streaming platform, and top names attached to the projects, these media companies are often seen as less risky than many alternatives.

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