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Super League Football Europe: Which billionaires are behind the Super League?
The idea is simple: instead of having to play in the Champions League against lesser-known clubs and at the same time risking an early exit, the Super League clubs have guaranteed a place at the source of money in the future. The members of the cartel-like construct can divide the television income among themselves. The model is based on US sports leagues such as the NBA and NFL, which allocate fixed starting places in a franchise model for high participation fees and revenue keys. But not as many as you want either.
The US bank JP Morgan has agreed to finance the new competition, which is to guarantee the participants income in the three-digit million range. It is no accident that most of the twelve clubs are owned by very wealthy financial investors. These are the men behind what many see as an attack on European football:
Roman Abramowitsch (Chelsea FC)
The 54-year-old Russian oligarch made his fortune with raw materials in Russia. According to the "Forbes" rankings, it amounts to $ 14.5 billion. Since joining Chelsea in 2003, he has been the epitome of the billionaire who considers a football club a status symbol.
With his billions in investments, he made the club one of the top clubs in Europe. He is notorious for his impatience with coaches. He hasn't been seen in the UK in years because the Home Office failed to extend his visa in 2018. Thereupon he stopped the plans for a new stadium.
Stanley Kroenke (Arsenal FC)
The owner of Kroenke Sports and Entertainment joined the London club in 2007. The 73-year-old American has been the majority owner since 2011, and in 2018 he bought the rest of the shares from Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov.
In addition to Arsenal, Kroenke also owns clubs in the American professional leagues for basketball, football and ice hockey (NBA, NFL and NHL). According to Forbes, his fortune is estimated at $ 8.2 billion. He is married to the Walmart heiress Ann Walton, who has another eight billion dollars.
Joel Glazer (Manchester United)
The son of the late US billionaire Malcolm Glazer is co-chairman of England's largest football club. The Glazers bought their first shares in the then listed club in 2003. As majority shareholders, they initially took the association off the stock exchange in 2005, but then raised fresh capital from investors in a new IPO in New York in 2012.
However, they only gave up a small part of their shares and remained in control. Their debt-financed takeover has brought the association a high interest burden to this day. In the first corona year of 2020, the club's net debt rose to £ 455 million. In addition to Manchester United, the Glazers also own the NFL team Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Joe Lewis (Tottenham Hotspur)
Born in the East End of London, the self-made entrepreneur made his fortune in forex trading. Among other things, he bet in 1992 together with George Soros against the British pound, which then fell out of the European currency mechanism.
In 2001 he bought the first shares in the "Spurs" from the entrepreneur Alan Sugar. The now 84-year-old lives in the Bahamas, the club is run by his partner Daniel Levy. Lewis ‘net worth is estimated at $ 4 billion.
John W. Henry (Liverpool FC)
The 71-year-old American made a fortune trading commodities before building an empire in professional sports. In 2002 he bought the traditional baseball club Boston Red Sox. In 2010, the equally traditional Liverpool FC was added.
The investor also owns the Boston Globe, which his wife runs. Henry's net worth is $ 2.8 billion. His holding, Fenway Sports Group, recently also had a prominent shareholder: US basketball star LeBron James.
Sheikh Mansour (Manchester City)
The vice-premier of the United Arab Emirates and member of the ruling family bought Manchester City in 2008. With gigantic transfer fees, he made it possible for the club to become the dominant club in the Premier League.
Last year, the European football association Uefa banned the club from the Champions League for two seasons for violating the transfer rules. The verdict was overturned, but the relationship with Uefa remains tense.
Florentino Perez (Real Madrid)
The 74-year-old building contractor, whose ACS group also includes the German subsidiary Hochtief, has been president of the club for 17 years. He played a key role in initiating the Super League and is set to become its first president. Like FC Barcelona, Real Madrid is still a sports club owned by its members - the fans.
“The two clubs have long been criticizing the fact that, unlike other European clubs, they lack powerful financiers as owners who could help reduce their debts,” explains Eduardo Fernández-Cantelli, professor of sports management at the IE business school in Madrid.
For Pérez, the Super League is therefore a welcome opportunity to generate new income. The club has high debts, which are due, among other things, to the ongoing renovation of the legendary Bernabeu stadium.
Joan Laporta (FC Barcelona)
Like arch rivals Real Madrid, the club belongs to its members. The 58 year old president is club member number 13,352. Laporta owns a law firm and founded a party for the independence of Catalonia in 2010. The politician was a member of the Catalan Parliament and the Barcelona City Council for several years.
He had already headed Barça as president from 2003 to 2010 and was re-elected last March. During his election campaign, he spoke out against a Super League because it "burdens the business and nature of football". Nonetheless, he said that if such a league comes about, FC Barcelona will be there. On Monday, the club also used the corona crisis as the reason for the Super League.
Miguel Ángel Gil Marín (Atlético Madrid)
The 57-year-old trained veterinarian is CEO and main shareholder of Atlético Madrid. His life has always been linked to the club: his father had already headed Atlético as president. Both have been involved in various legal proceedings alleging fraud against the club.
According to the sports magazine "Marca", Miguel Ángel Gil Marín owns 51 percent of the shares. The club did not respond to a demand for the ownership structure.
Andrea Agnelli (Juventus Turin)
If there is one person who stands for the division of Europe's top leagues, it is Agnelli. He has been President of Juventus Turin since 2010. Now the 45-year-old will be vice-president of the new Super League - and has announced that he will step down as head of the European club association ECA.
Agnelli is the great-grandson of Fiat founder Giovanni Agnelli, who bought "Juve" in 1923 and made his son president. Since then, the billion dollar family has been in charge of the club. She holds almost 64 percent of Juventus through her Dutch subsidiary Exor. Agnelli announced that the new league would make fans' dream of “games of the highest quality” come true, thereby strengthening their passion for football.
Zhang Kangyang (Inter Milan)
The venerable FC Internazionale from Milan has been in Chinese hands since 2016. At that time, the Suning Holdings group from Nanjing bought almost 70 percent of the shares. The club had not been dominated by Italian for a long time: The oil entrepreneur and fan-favorite long-term president Massimo Moratti sold the majority of the club to an Indonesian businessman in 2013.
Today, Zhang Kangyang, a billionaire's son, is in charge. He has also been President of Inter since 2018 - at the age of 27, he was the youngest club boss in history. His father Zhang Jindong once founded the e-commerce platform Suning.com, today the group also has financial services, entertainment and real estate in its portfolio.
Paul Singer (AC Milan)
For decades, the city's rival “Milan” belonged to the entrepreneurial empire of Italy's ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. He held the majority of the AC through a holding company of his holding company Fininvest, and was president himself for a long time.
In 2017, a Chinese consortium led by the entrepreneur Li Yonghong took over the shares, but got out after a short time due to excessive club debt. In 2018, Paul Singer's US hedge fund Elliott took hold and completely excused the association.
To date, the company is said to have put nearly half a billion into the club. Elliott, founded in 1977, invests billions in companies all over the world and holds shares in the news service Twitter and the German incubator Rocket Internet.
AC Milan is almost entirely owned by the 76-year-old's company (99.93 percent). Milan should not be a long-term investment for Singer either: The plan is rumored to raise the club to the value of one billion dollars - and then sell it at a profit.
The Bundesliga clubs Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich had boycotted the Super League and instead backed the reformed UEFA Champions League. The reform provides for an expansion of the field of participants from 2024 to 36 instead of the previous 32 teams. The French club Paris Saint-Germain is also not part of the Super League. Those responsible feared public criticism of the project.
Judging by the first reactions, the plan for the Super League is likely to fail. The associations Uefa and Fifa as well as the national leagues announced maximum sanctions: The members of the Super League are no longer allowed to play in their national leagues and their players are no longer allowed to appear for the national team.
Both would mean significant revenue losses, as the Premier League and the Spanish La Liga are very well marketed internationally through lucrative TV contracts. National team tournaments regularly increase the sales value of their own players. This price is likely to be too high for the renegades.
More:JP Morgan wants to fund Super League.
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