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Hutchison sells NBL club Perth Wildcats for $40m

Sports Entertainment Group owner Craig Hutchison has sold NBL club Perth Wildcats to tech entrepreneur Mark Arena for a cool $40 million.

Arena, a lifelong Wildcats fan who is based in Perth, has signed a deal to buy a majority 52.5 per cent share of the club ahead of the next NBL season.

As part of a staged acquisition, his stake will increase to 90 per cent by 2026 under a "put and call" option, with a plan to reach 100 per cent by 2028.

The sale represents a huge boon for Hutchison, who reportedly paid $8.5 million for the Wildcats three years ago.

"I absolutely love this team and I see huge potential for both basketball and for the City of Perth with the return of local ownership," Arena said in a statement.

"I believe the Western Australian basketball community can make an even greater impact on a global stage - and that's good news for everyone.

"Whilst keeping an open mind, I feel strongly that we'll be a club that will be 'Western Australia first' in our intent.

"The Perth Wildcats is one of the strongest teams in the NBL.

"I intend to bring my technology and business growth skills to the table to deliver an unprecedented experience for both fans and our sponsors and to reinvigorate the authentic basketball culture that I first fell in love with in the 90s."

Hutchison's SEG bought the Wildcats in July 2021 from long-time owner Jack Bendat, who died seven months later at the age of 96.

The sale comes at a good time for Hutchison, whose media and sporting empire has hit financial troubles over the past year.

Arena began his career two decades ago at Telstra and went on to work at ERG Transit Systems and defence contractor ASC.

He then joined the Australian Federal Police in Canberra as a technical specialist within the High-Tech Crime Operations function, before relocating to Europe.

His pivotal career move arrived in 2014 when he founded the cyber crime intelligence business Intel 471, which is now backed by Thoma Bravo, one of the largest software-focused investors in the world.

Arena stood down from his role as CEO of Intel 471 in 2023, but remains a director and strategic adviser.

In 2023, he became chair of US company DroneSec, a company specialising in threat intelligence systems to counter drones.

Meanwhile, Wildcats coach John Rillie is about to embark on his second NBA Summer League coaching stint, this time with the New Orleans Pelicans.

Rillie was part of the New York Knicks' coaching group last summer, and will join the Pelicans for this year's tournament in Las Vegas.