Mar 16, 2021 - Sports

LeBron James and private equity firm to get stakes in Boston Red Sox

Illustration of baseball on top of a pile of money

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Boston Red Sox majority owner John Henry has agreed to sell a roughly 11% stake in the team's parent company to RedBird Capital Partners, Axios has confirmed with a source close to the situation. Separately, LeBron James has acquired around a 1% stake in the club, although without investing any new money.

Why it matters: It's a massive return on investment for Henry, who in 2001 paid what was then a record $700 million for the Red Sox. This deal values its parent company, Fenway Sports Group, at around $7.3 billion.

Why it matters to Red Sox fans: Because there's a certain amount of sacrilege at play.

  • RedBird is led by Gerry Cardinale, who made his name as the Goldman Sachs banker who helped the New York Yankees create the country's largest regional sports network (YES Network).
  • James grew up as a Yankees fan, and is known to sport the team's iconic cap. He had previously acquired around a small ownership stake in soccer club Liverpool FC, which is part of the Fenway Sports Group portfolio, and now is using the Redbird-led restructuring to convert that stake into the 1% piece of FSG.

Background: RedBird originally was in talks to buy between 2o-25% of FSG via a SPAC, which included the involvement of longtime baseball exec Billy Beane. But that deal didn't come together, due to difficulties in obtaining outside financing at a valuation asking price of around $8 billion.

  • The LeBron James investment was first reported by The Boston Globe.
  • RedBird's investment requires Major League Baseball approval.

In addition to the Red Sox and Liverpool, Fenway Sports Group also includes a NASCAR team and regional sports network that airs Red Sox and Boston Bruins games.

RedBird, the Red Sox and a representative for James all declined comment.

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