It has been a rough start to the season for LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers, as the purple-and-gold have lost seven of their first nine games and currently sit 14th in the Western Conference standings. But James could be in line for a huge win off the court.
Fenway Sports Group is exploring a sale of English Premier League club Liverpool, according to someone familiar with the plans (The Athletic was the first to report the news). James and his longtime business partner Maverick Carter hold a roughly 1% stake in FSG through a marketing partnership forged more than a decade ago. Sportico valued Liverpool at $4.14 billion last year in its EPL team valuations, but the frothy sports environment could push the final price closer to $5 billion.
“FSG has frequently received expressions of interest from third parties seeking to become shareholders in Liverpool,” Fenway said in a statement. “FSG has said before that under the right terms and conditions we would consider new shareholders if it was in the best interests of Liverpool as a club.”
In 2010, FSG bought Liverpool from Tom Hicks and George Gillette for $476 million. A year later, the company partnered with James’ marketing firm, LRMR, to help promote James internationally, particularly in China where Liverpool had a major following. As part of the deal, James and Carter acquired a share in Liverpool worth an estimated $6 million to $7 million.
Franchise valuations exploded over the next decade, and last year, James exchanged his stake in Liverpool for a piece of the greater FSG conglomerate, which also owns the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park, the Pittsburgh Penguins, television network NESN, and a stake in a NASCAR team. The move came as part of private equity firm RedBird Capital Partners buying more than 10% of FSG for $750 million.
Representatives for James did not respond to a request for comment.
James tops Sportico’s list of the world’s highest-paid athletes with $127 million last year, including $90 million from sponsors, memorabilia, royalties and media. He has increased his focus on building equity in companies, including Blaze Pizza, Calm, Ladder/Openfit and Lobos 1707 tequila. His biggest asset is SpringHill Company, which includes production company SpringHill Entertainment, media platform Uninterrupted and brand consultancy Robot.
Last year, SpringHill sold a stake to a consortium led by RedBird that valued the company at $725 million. Revenue for SpringHill is expected to top $100 million this year.
In 2020, Liverpool ended a 30-year English title drought, and their 19 titles rank second all-time behind Manchester United’s 20. Liverpool’s 2019 Champions League trophy was their sixth, twice as many as any other English club.