The San Francisco 49ers are boosting their stake in Leeds United, with veteran executive Paraag Marathe taking on the role of vice chairman of the Premier League club.
The deal, to be announced later this morning, will see 49ers Enterprises, an investment arm related to the NFL team, boost its minority stake of Leeds United to 37%, up from the 15% original equity the 49ers took in Leeds in 2018. The value of the transaction isn’t publicly disclosed.
Leeds United is one of the more accomplished soccer clubs in England, having won an FA Cup, various other English championships and notched a couple of appearances in the late rounds of Europe-wide tournaments. Financial troubles at the turn of the century resulted in the team foundering to as low as the third English division during its 16 years outside the Premier League. In 2017 Italian sports broadcasting entrepreneur Andrea Radrizzani gained majority control of the team with the 49ers coming on board as limited partners in 2018. The Peacocks earned promotion back into England’s top-level of soccer for the current season with Radrizzani as chairman.
“This is Andrea’s club, and we’re here to support him in every way possible,” Marathe said in a phone call. “He’s done such a tremendous job getting this club promoted and getting this club so popular already within the Premier League. We just want to help him continue to grow and to get more and more competitive.”
Well-regarded in U.S. sports circles, Marathe has been a Leeds United board member since the 49ers bought their first stake from Radrizzani. A 20-year veteran of the San Francisco NFL franchise, he is president of 49ers Enterprises and executive vice president of football operations. Among his football duties are being chief contract negotiator, salary cap architect and manager of the team’s analytics operations. Marathe also volunteers as chair of USA Cricket, a non-profit seeking to improve the competitiveness of the country in international play.
“I have always been open to bringing partners on this journey with me, as long as these actions can benefit the long-term strategy of the club,” Radrizzani said in a statement. “Paraag and the team at 49ers Enterprises are uniquely positioned to collaborate with myself, [managing director] Angus Kinnear, [football director] Victor Orta and our management team to help us achieve our goals.”
The promotion of Marathe to club vice chairman signals a shift in 49ers participation from a passive, learning stance to an active one, drawing upon the success under the York family of making the 49ers a top-flight NFL franchise again, according to Marathe.
“This is our wheelhouse,” he said. “We transformed the 49ers and 49ers Enterprises—in a global sense—in everything we do, from the football team and building our stadium to all the other ventures we’re involved in. We have so many resources and blueprints we can export with relative ease on helping them to grow on and off the pitch.”
Marathe will continue his 49ers roles in addition to working more closely with Leeds United, where he will also remain as a board member. “Now we’re actually able to roll up our sleeves,” he said.