After the Russians, the emirs of the Gulf, the Chinese, make way for the Americans. In recent months, investment funds have multiplied the takeovers of football clubs in Europe. In Great Britain, Chelsea has just been taken over by a consortium led by businessman Todd Boehly, already co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. He will pay 3 billion euros to take over the shares of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and has promised to inject an additional 2 billion into the London club. It is the largest transaction ever made in a team sport.
«The return on investment is not obvious, but by buying out a team, a fund gains notoriety which can enable it to attract other investors and therefore increase its financial standing”, analyzes Jean-François Brocard, lecturer at the Center for Sports Law and Economics. Clearly, it would be a kind of marketing expense. The prospect of carrying out a real estate project on the land belonging to the stadium and the development of derivative products can also whet the appetite of a fund.
Toulouse FC and Red Star under American control
In Italy, AC Milan, the former club of Silvio Berlusconi, is also changing hands. Owned by Elliott Management since 2018, it was bought in early June by another American fund, RedBird Capital, for 1.2 billion euros, which owns shares in baseball in the United States and in the club of Liverpool. In the summer of 2020, he also became the main shareholder of Toulouse FC, which will return to Ligue 1.
Several American funds are also in discussion with Olympique Lyonnais to take a stake. At the beginning of May, 777 Partners based in Miami, took over the Red Star, the club of Saint-Ouen, in the Paris suburbs. He already owns Genoa, Italy, Standard de Liège in Belgium, part of Spanish club FC Sevilla, as well as Brazilian Vasco de Gama.
Financialization is accelerating
The period is conducive to this frenzy of acquisitions. There is money to invest and clubs to sell, hard hit by the Covid crisis and in need of fresh money.
«We are taking a further step in the financialization of football, with the risk that these new investors seek to limit the sporting hazard, by pushing for the creation of closed Leagues, without ups and downs, as in the United States “, emphasizes Jean-François Brocard. A similar project, called “Super League”, imagined by twelve football clubs (six English, three Spanish and three Italian) is still pending.