Basketball star takes minority stake in Liverpool FC

The tie-up between LeBron James and LFC might seem odd - but it shows both parties' international ambitions.

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
When MT woke up this morning and saw that US basketball star LeBron James had taken a small ownership stake in Liverpool FC, we wondered if it was a late April Fool. But the deal makes a lot of sense. LeBron’s a huge star in the US, but not that well known outside it (except by basketball fans, obviously). Liverpool are one of the most famous football clubs in the world, but have a relatively small following in the US - and since they’re now under (good) US ownership, this looks like a great opportunity for the two parties to explore synergies and extend their brand reach. Though we can't help harking back fondly to the days when talking about 'brand' and 'synergy' in connection with your local football team would have been a good way to get a slap...

James - or LeBron, as he's universally known - might not be a household name in the UK, but he's just about the biggest star in basketball. Since basketball is the most popular sport in the US, and the US league is by far the world’s most prestigious, that makes the 26-year-old a very marketable commodity. And he's been exploiting this to the full: as well as his $15m a year playing contract with the Miami Heat, he also earns around $30m a year from endorsement deals with the likes of Nike, McDonalds and Coca-Cola. He has his own management company, LRMR, which is run by his high-school friend Maverick Carter (this isn't technically relevant, but we just love the name). He's now agreed to be represented by Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool's new US owners - and will take a stake in the club as part of the deal.

As for Liverpool - well, it may have had its problems lately (on and off the pitch), but it remains one of the biggest names in the world's most popular sport. It's also taken huge strides in the commercial area in the last few years; revenues have leapt about 85% during the period, via lucrative sponsorship deals, a hugely successful website and TV channel, and a beefed-up retail operation. The club already has a commercial team out in Singapore, as it tries to tap into the Asian market, and MD Ian Ayre told MT yesterday that it was in the process of setting up a similar operation in the US via FSG. So this comes at an ideal time.

FSG has been waxing lyrical today about LeBron's 'global reach, appeal and iconic status'. Since much the same could be same about Liverpool, the hope is that putting the two together will open up lucrative new markets and commercial opportunities for both sides (2+2=5, etc). It's a deal that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago - but it makes perfect sense in a world where sport has become a huge and very lucrative global business.

What's more, LeBron says he's looking forward to visiting Anfield and pulling on the red shirt. At 6ft 8, Liverpool might be tempted to stick him on at centre forward. Apparently he's got a good touch for a big man.

Basketball star takes minority stake in Liverpool FC

 

The tie-up between LeBron James and LFC might seem odd - but it shows both parties' international ambitions.

 

When MT woke up this morning and saw that US basketball star LeBron James had taken a small ownership stake in Liverpool FC, we wondered if it was a late April Fool. But the deal makes a lot of sense. LeBron’s a huge star in the US, but not that well known outside it (except by basketball fans, obviously). Liverpool are one of the most famous football clubs in the world, but have a relatively small following in the US - and since they’re now under (good) US ownership, this looks like a great opportunity for the two parties to explore synergies and extend their brand reach. Though we can't help harking back fondly to the days when talking about 'brand' and 'synergy' in connection with your local football team would have been a good way to get a slap...

 

James - or LeBron, as he's universally known - might not be a household name in the UK, but he's just about the biggest star in basketball. Since basketball is the most popular sport in the US, and the US league is by far the world’s most prestigious, that makes the 26-year-old a very marketable commodity. And he's been exploiting this to the full: as well as his $15m a year playing contract with the Miami Heat, he also earns around $30m a year from endorsement deals with the likes of Nike, McDonalds and Coca-Cola. He has his own management company, LRMR, which is run by his high-school friend Maverick Carter (this isn't technically relevant, but we just love the name). He's now agreed to be represented by Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool's new US owners - and will take a stake in the club as part of the deal.

 

As for Liverpool - well, it may have had its problems lately (on and off the pitch), but it remains one of the biggest names in the world's most popular sport. It's also taken huge strides in the commercial area in the last few years; revenues have leapt about 85% during the period, via lucrative sponsorship deals, a hugely successful website and TV channel, and a beefed-up retail operation. The club already has a commercial team out in Singapore, as it tries to tap into the Asian market, and MD Ian Ayre told MT yesterday that it was in the process of setting up a similar operation in the US via FSG. So this comes at an ideal time.

 

FSG has been waxing lyrical today about LeBron's 'global reach, appeal and iconic status'. Since much the same could be same about Liverpool, the hope is that putting the two together will open up lucrative new markets and commercial opportunities for both sides (2+2=5, etc). It's a deal that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago - but it makes perfect sense in a world where sport has become a huge and very lucrative global business.

 

What's more, LeBron says he's looking forward to visiting Anfield and pulling on the red shirt. At 6"8, Liverpool might be tempted to stick him on at centre forward.

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