Basketball / Sports

Kobe Bryant to set his firm's headquarters in Newport Beach

Kobe Bryant's new company is setting up shop in the famed basketball player's hometown.

Council members authorized the sale Tuesday of a city-owned property in west Newport Beach, Calif., to Kobe Inc. for use as a global headquarters.

The roughly 1-acre site, at 1499 Monrovia Ave., includes a 16,550-square-foot office building, where Road and Track Magazine used to operate. It was sold for $5.8 million.

"I am thrilled Mr. Bryant chose Newport Beach," Councilman Keith Curry said.

The office building will be refurbished and remodeled, said Kobe Inc. President Andrea Fairchild, who now also lives in Newport Beach.

"We look to be a very vibrant member of the community," she said.

In addition to its business operations, the company expects to support physical health and wellness in the community, Fairchild said.

Bryant said earlier that there could be an opportunity for international sports stars to interact with young people in the community.

Kobe Inc. was set up in 2013, according to Forbes. The basketball star said its mission was "to own and grow brands and ideas that challenge and redefine the sports industry while inspiring the world."

Its first investment was expected to be $4 million to $6 million to support development of the sports drink BodyArmor, Forbes reported.

Although he supported Bryant's program, Mayor Pro Tem Ed Selich said a different location should have been chosen.

The industrial site was re-zoned in 2010 for residential use. A 10-year extension was given to the previous owner in 2012 to continue the site's commercial and office use, but that expires Feb. 1, 2022, meaning Kobe Inc.'s operations would then be nonconforming.

A possible extension of 15th Street also could reduce available parking below the amount required.

"We're just going to be forcing a future City Council to come up with some kind of a jerry-rig solution," Selich said, later concluding, "I just think that it's really bad public policy to do a sale of this nature, and I'm opposed to it."

Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, who voted against the sale along with Selich, also warned that the city's long-term interests needed to supersede hype that comes with Bryant's name.

The site previously had been suggested as a possible place for a west Newport community center, but staffers concluded that it was too small. Instead, revenue from the sale will be saved in the West Newport Capital Projects Fund.

Councilman Mike Henn was absent from the meeting.

"Congratulations," Curry said to Fairchild, shaking her hand after the 4-2 vote at the meeting's conclusion.

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