By Mark A. Upaa
A sensation on the court, LeBron James has long made known his goal of building a business empire to rival that of other super stars who have trancended sports star status to become global icons. The Los Angeles Lakers power forward who is arguably the biggest stars in the National Basketball Association (NBA) is not just famed for his prowess on the basketball court. Off the court, the man affectionately known as ‘King James’ has been diligently honing his business acumen and has been investing the wealth that he has acquired through his exploits in the NBA in a variety of ventures.
Having secured lucrative endorsement deals and partnerships with several high profile brands like Nike and Beats Electronics, James also has his finger in the multi-billion pound industry of the English Premier League. Where he is a minority shareholder in Liverpool, one of English football’s most prestigious teams.
‘King James’ involvement with Liverpool began in 2011 and it grew out of his dealings with Fenway Sports Group (FSG). While playing with the Miami Heat, a team he led to 2 world championships, he entered a partnership with FSG – who had just bought Liverpool from George Gillett and Tom Hicks. Part of the deal with FSG was that he also acquired a minority stake in the Reds.
James, who has compared Liverpool to the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees and Liverpool arch rivals, Manchester United in terms of their global brand appeal and signalled his intention to help them grow further. “Any time you have so much history and so much power behind their story, there is great potential to continue that expansion,” he said in an interview. “There are some teams and logos you see, no matter where you are in the world, and you know exactly who they are and what they mean. I see Liverpool in that group.”
LeBrons ‘ stake in Liverpool is reported to be two per cent and while that may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things it is proving to be a very shrewd investment for him. When he first acquired the two per cent share in the Anfield club in 2011, it was estimated to be worth approximately $6.5 million (£4.9m) but that number has grown considerably thanks to Liverpool’s rising value. By 2018 James’ share in the club was reported by ESPN to be worth to $32 million (£24m) – a staggering increase of $25.5 million (£19m) in the space of seven years.
The steady rise in Liverpool’s value since James first became a minority shareholder is down to the club’s consistency on the pitch, despite the fact that they haven’t won a trophy since their 2012 League Cup success. Reaching the Champions League final in 2018 was a major boost and, though they lost on that occasion to Real Madrid, their worth was recently put at $1.9 billion (£1.4bn) by Forbes, putting them in the top 10 most valuable football clubs in the world.
While he’s not a regular sight at Anfield, James has been to see Liverpool play, notably taking in a derby match against Manchester United in 2011. “To be at Anfield and see 40,000 fans screaming at the top of their lungs, the whole game, was an unbelievable experience for me,” he said afterwards of his Merseyside visit. On that occasion James was also given a tour of the famous stadium, meeting Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard, as well as club icon Kenny Dalglish. Because of his many obligations, he may not necessarily get to games on a frequent basis but James has been spotted supporting the club from afar and has been pictured wearing Liverpool gear at times.