May 20, 2022 - Sports

American investors keep scoring European soccer teams

In this illustration, a soccer ball is kicked by someone wearing sports gear and socks with money printed on them.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

American investors are beginning to dominate European soccer in a way that American players never have.

Driving the news: A majority of the English Premier League's top 20 teams will have U.S. owners, once Todd Boehly's purchase of Chelsea F.C. goes through.

  • And it will close, through despite some British media drama about loan repayment to Russian oligarch and current owner Roman Abramovich.

More:

  • RedBird Capital Partners reportedly is nearing a deal for AC Milan, besting Bahrain-domiciled Investcorp. That would be a wash, since the team is currently owned by Elliott Management.
  • Sixth Street Partners yesterday agreed to invest $380 million into Real Madrid for a 30% stake in future stadium revenue (minus season ticket sales).
  • Last year, Oaktree Capital bought a 31% stake in Inter Milan, Area Management bought a 34% stake in La Liga's Atlético and 777 Partners bought Serie A club Genoa.
  • Plus, let’s not forget actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney buying Wrexham A.F.C. Okay, Reynolds is Canadian, but still...

Be smart: This is about low barriers to entry, particularly as compared to North American sports leagues.

  • The NFL and Major League Baseball frown on institutional (i.e., PE fund) ownership of teams, while the NHL is a bit more amenable and the NBA just recently opened its arms.
  • Owners also are a bit pickier about who they let into the club, whereas European soccer has turned a blind eye to most everything other than the purchase price.

The bottom line: So far, there's been very little blowback from supporters or governments (speculation that the U.K. would seek to block a non-British buyer of Chelsea, for example, was unfounded).

  • The U.S. investor bet is that fans don't mind non-local ownership, so long as it's married to increased investment in player payroll and stadium amenities.
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