Basketball star Lebron James is already one of sports wealthiest figures, but in recent years it has not only been his on-court play and Nike sponsorship deal that has generated millions but his clever investment in Liverpool Football Club as well.
On 25 June this year Liverpool were crowned Premier League winners thanks to a surprise victory by Chelsea over Manchester City, but it was not only British football fans that were celebrating their historic and unconventional victory. Lebron James was thrilled and tweeted as much on social media:
— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 25, 2020
Back in 2011, James secured a minority stake in Liverpool after cutting a deal with the club’s US owner, Fenway Sports Group. Under the terms of the deal, the Red Sox owner would become the representative of the controversial Miami Heat player around the world in exchange for a reported two per cent stake in Liverpool FC, estimate to be worth around $6.5 million.
Discussing the deal, the sports star told the Wall Street Journal that he was “excited to be affiliated with this incredible organisation”, but made clear it was a business decision and “a great opportunity for me”.
Tom Werner, Liverpool Chairman, said: “There are very few athletes who can match his global reach, appeal and iconic status … We feel the business opportunities for both working and being identified together in emerging international markets will result in unforeseen opportunities that neither would have been able to realise alone.”
At the time Liverpool were a popular Premier League team facing financial difficulties, but in the years since the club has turned its fortunes around, winning titles and enjoying the revenues from the massive television licensing deal the premier League struck in 2015.
Maverick Carter, James’ long-term business partner, told ESPN in 2018: “It has been a thrill to watch such a storied club make their way back to the top again and to be a part of it all. LeBron likes the fact that he’s diversified in another global sport.”
In May last year, Forbes magazine estimated Liverpool FC to be worth $2.183 billion (£1.7bn), which would make James’ stake worth around $43.6m. And after winning the title this year, it can be safely assumed that both the club’s and his fortunes will have risen further.
James has also put his capital to use outside the sporting arena, and started to invest in companies as diverse as restaurants and entertainment firms. The former NBA MVP currently owns 19 Blaze Pizza franchises, production company Spring Hill Entertainment and media brand Uninterrupted.