It was announced last week that American investors Josh Harris and David Blitzer had completed a deal giving each an 18 percent stake in London based soccer team Crystal Palace. In fact, the duo will join current Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish in a general partnership with the trio having control of the running of the club. American sports fans may be familiar with Harris and Blitzer as they are owners of the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils.
Harris and Blitzer are not the first Americans to get involved in the lucrative English Premier League. The league’s increasing popularity both here in the United States as well as overseas, makes the league an attractive investment for existing owners of professional sports teams or those looking to get in to team ownership.
Last month the Chicago based investment firm PEAK6 purchased a 25 percent share in EPL side AFC Bournemouth. PEAK6 co-owner and CEO Matt Hulsizer is currently a minority owner of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.
There are a number of other American based investors that have been involved in ownership within the English Premier League for a number of years. Those include:
Stan Kroenke is the owner of Kroenke Sports Enterprises which includes the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rapids, St. Louis Rams and the Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League. Kroenke has been the majority shareholder of London based Arsenal since July 2011. He currently owns 66.64% of the club.
The former owner of the Cleveland Browns, Randy Lerner, has been owner and Chairman of Birmingham’s Aston Villa since 2006.
Boston Red Sox owner John Henry purchased legendary club Liverpool for $476 million in 2010. His Fenway Sports Group also includes The Boston Globe newspaper as well as NASCAR racing team Roush Fenway Racing.
The Glazer family have been owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since purchasing the NFL club in 1995 for $192 million. Today the team is worth over $1.2 billion. The Glazers added to their fortune in 2006 when they purchased one of the most valuable soccer teams in the world, Manchester United, for $1.4 billion.
London based American Ellis Short became the owner of northern England’s Sunderland A.F.C. in 2008. Short is the founder of a private equity fund, Kildare Partners. Sunderland is his first foray in to sports team ownership.
Some have questioned why so many Americans are investing in a sport that has historically not been very popular in the United States. As you might probably guess, it’s about the value of the EPL and its clubs. England’s top league has been increasing in popularity here in the United States and abroad over the past decade.
A look at the television rights deal here in the U.S. shows the staggering value of the league to broadcast networks and advertisers. NBC Sports is in the final year of a three year contract, but recently beat out a number of other bidders to continue as the official U.S. broadcast network for the next six years. NBC’s current cost is approximately $83 million per season. The new deal is worth about $1 billion dollars over the course of the 6 years.
Then there’s the value of the league within the U.K. This past February, broadcasters Sky Sports and BT Sport paid £5.1 billion for the rights to live Premier League matches for the next three seasons. That figure represents a 70 percent increase on the networks’ current £3 billion deal.
In addition to television revenue, investing in English Premier League clubs gives owners the opportunity to work with sponsors and advertisers and to reap the benefit of worldwide merchandising and marketing.
Some traditionalists in the U.K. have expressed displeasure with American and other foreign owners getting involved in the EPL. However, the rising costs and profits associated with England’s top league are making it clear that club ownership will increasingly be limited to billionaire investors wherever they may be from.