Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s Boardroom is a 25-person company. What’s next?


On the morning after the Nets’ Play-In game victory in April, Rich Kleiman said he received a text message from Kevin Durant. In it, Durant pitched Kleiman on a young Philadelphia designer he wanted Boardroom to partner with for a capsule collection.

This, Kleiman said, is not irregular. Durant has a daily interest in Boardroom, the media company he and Kleiman have created and grown over the last few years. So does Kleiman.

“I’m involved with everything,” he said proudly.

At a time when professional athletes and their business partners are regularly stepping into media in the middle of their careers, whether with personal podcasts or video series, Boardroom carries more intrigue and a larger scale. Kleiman said it is at the center of 35V, the investment and philanthropic company that has already made them a resounding venture capital success.

What began as a series of conversational talk shows on ESPN in 2018 has now morphed into a larger operation. Boardroom has podcasts — Durant and Kleiman each host shows — and thriving social media channels and video content. Last week, it announced a new documentary about New York City point guards.

There also is something rarer among their peers: their own digital news site, Boardroom.tv. The website sits in the middle of the entire media web Durant and Kleiman have constructed and its entry into digital news media, a volatile industry.

Kleiman understands the concerns. He said that years ago, when he considered companies to invest in, every time he came across a digital media company, he thought of it as an antiquated business model. For Boardroom, he said it is just a part of the many media products they offer — and a part of 35V, which also manages Durant’s Nike business and its production business and includes its 10 percent ownership stake in the Philadelphia Union and recent investment in Gotham CF. (Durant was not made available for this story.)

“We have the access, we have the audience, we have the connectivity,” Kleiman said. “So yes, we built a traditional digital-media brand. But it’s part of an overall enterprise and involves venture capital that involves traditional film and TV, that involves a 15-years-and-running signature Nike shoe business, and involves gaming tournaments we’re putting together. The platform is the anchor of it all. If it, in itself, was our only core business, I would understand what you’re saying. But when you look at it in the center of this entire economy we’ve built, this enterprise of 35V, it drives everything.”

Boardroom has grown since the start of the pandemic and now has 25 employees. He has a director of editorial strategy, Bernadette Doykos, and a staff of writers and social-media creators. While NBA players now regularly have their own podcast feeds — think CJ McCollum, Draymond Green and the one JJ Redick started during his career — Boardroom is going a step further. The best analog may just be SpringHill Co., LeBron James’ video production enterprise that now puts out shows and films. Boardroom does not have that kind of scale yet, but Durant and Kleiman have landed a show on Apple TV, and Durant in March won an Oscar as an executive producer for “Two Distant Strangers.”

Boardrom was envisioned in its early days as a way to shine a spotlight on conversations athletes were having away from the court, but the unscripted series format didn’t allow it to move fast enough. Last year, Boardroom got more serious about editorial operations and creating a one-stop destination for everything under its banner. Kleiman sees the company’s mission as a cross section for sports and music that also delves into tech, business, sneakers and cryptocurrency — as well as what leaders in those industries are discussing. The business of women’s sports is a key point of interest. Kyrie Irving may appear on Durant’s podcast, but Boardroom won’t be covering the Nets.

Recently, there were interviews with famous entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk and obscure sportsmen like the world’s No. 1 darts player. There were posts about how recent NBA champions had built their rosters and the Jonas Brothers’ new subscription service. In May, Boardroom says it hit 2.5 million unique views, with an audience that skews male and under-34.

Kleiman sees Complex, HYPEBEAST and Forbes all as models of what his company wants to embody, not just in content but in the relevance it provides to the ecosystems it covers.

“We’re also creating a conversation that we cover, and it’s important for us to keep putting that out there,” he said. “Looking at Boardroom, the brand, from that standpoint, you can’t get scared off by the digital-media landscape because I do believe that brand, now more than ever, is crucial because of how oversaturated and how crowded content offerings are across social and streaming services. A strong brand that means something and stands for something with a global superstar rooted in it in KD and the team we built here, you know to me that is very much like the future.”

Boardroom, of course, is not the first media company to cover sports and culture at the same time. That has been done before. But Durant and Kleiman serve as an inflection point. Kleiman emphasizes that it is not just a media platform, but also a brand and an extension of the other businesses the duo already has and who they are. Kleiman said it reflects their voices — and his is that of a mid-40s New York City native who came up through the music industry.

Durant and Kleiman can book guests for the site and their podcasts that others might not be able to. 35V has investments in a number of companies, and Boardroom will cover them, or use its reach with them, to get access for its stories. Coinbase, in which Durant is a longtime investor, has been written about a number of times, and he is an advertiser on the site. When Durant’s latest signature shoe was released in April, Boardroom got an “inside look.”

Boardroom, Kleiman said, is meant to be a hub of information across the many industries it explores, not as a place for criticism. Kleiman doesn’t envision it delving into “negative articles.”

“That’s not the spirit of this platform,” he said. “This is an aspirational entrepreneurial platform. This is a platform that’s there to showcase everything happening in and around the culture of sports and music. So, there’s enough platforms and enough channels dedicated to telling us all of that negative news and critiquing athletes and critiquing their behavior. There’s also room for platforms not to have that, and I think that we may not like a deal as much as another deal or we may have a commentary on the state of something in the industry, but as far as someone comes to our platform to talk about their business or a new partnership or Venus Williams comes on to show up for a new protein, plant-based drink, like, we’re not there to do anything but give them their flowers and continue connecting people.”

There is something else uncommon about Boardroom. Kleiman and Durant, especially, were subjects of the media for a long time before they became purveyors of it. Occasionally, it could get sensational or negative.

Kleiman said those experiences haven’t influenced how they want Boardroom to look, though. If anything, it was his time on social media over the last few years that left an imprint on him. During the pandemic, he saw people go there and talk about their companies or their investments and what they were working on, taking the opportunity to flex a little bit.

He wanted to build a place that would reflect that.

“I thought there was a really sophisticated way to do that for the entire athlete community and now for the entire music community, and integrating with all of our access to tech and business,” Kleiman said. “I thought that was unique, and I’m excited to see where we are because the voice and the tone that we’ve captured and the gamut of things that we cover is exactly what we envisioned.”

(Photo of Kevin Durant, Mark Ronson and Rich Kleiman: Johnny Nunez/WireImage)

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