LeBron James is becoming a Red Sox owner
By Kevin Draper and Marc Stein
The Boston Red Sox have gained a global sports star as a partial team owner. LeBron James has bought a minor stake in the MLB franchise at the same time that the team’s longtime ownership group received a $750 million infusion from a private-equity firm.
It was not clear how much James invested in the Fenway Sports Group (FSG), which owns the Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club, an English Premier League soccer team.
The investment from the private-equity firm, RedBird Capital Partners, places the value of Fenway Sports Group at around $8 billion, including its debt. In addition to the sports teams, FSG owns Fenway Park, Roush Fenway Racing, the NESN regional sports network and Fenway Sports Management, a marketing company.
James, 36, a member of the Los Angeles Lakers who is in his 18th NBA season, has a long history with FSG. He originally partnered with Fenway Sports Management in 2011, allowing it to represent his global marketing rights, and as part of that deal took a small ownership stake in Liverpool FC. But by investing in FSG itself, James added the Red Sox and other FSG companies to his portfolio.
Maverick Carter, James’ longtime friend and business partner, also invested in FSG. The deal will make the pair the first Black partners in Fenway Sports Group.
The investments, which still requires approval from Major League Baseball, were confirmed by two people with knowledge of them, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the news media before a public announcement from FSG. The Boston Globe first reported the investments from RedBird and James.
James, an Ohio native, has described himself as a lifelong New York Yankees fan, and he created a stir during the 2007 baseball playoffs when he wore a Yankees hat to an American League playoff game in Cleveland. He then actively rooted for Cleveland in the 2016 World Series, just months after leading the Cavaliers to the city’s first major sports championship in 52 years.
Expanding his role with FSG is one of James’ many ventures off the basketball court, which include his More Than a Vote group, which aims to fight voter suppression; his work with Carter at SpringHill Entertainment, a production company; and starring in, as well as producing, the movie “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” scheduled to be released this summer.
Though James has the highest profile among the new investors, RedBird’s involvement is likely to have more effect on FSG’s operations.
RedBird Capital Partners is led by Gerry Cardinale, who helped the Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys form Legends Hospitality when he previously worked at Goldman Sachs. RedBird recently joined the Yankees, Amazon and others in buying the YES Network from The Walt Disney Co. RedBird also recently purchased an 85% stake in Toulouse Football Club, which plays in France’s second soccer division.
FSG has more than 20 investors, who are all called partners, but it is led by John Henry, Tom Werner and Michael Gordon. RedBird’s stake in FSG will be around 11%, making it the third-largest investor, surpassing Gordon’s stake, according to one of the people with knowledge of the deal.
Henry and Werner paid $660 million for the Red Sox in 2002 and about $476 million for Liverpool in 2010. Both teams won long-awaited championships under FSG and would almost certainly be worth multiple billions individually if they were sold. RedBird’s investment will allow FSG’s current partners to cash out some of those gains without relinquishing control of the franchises. According to The Boston Globe, more than $600 million will go to FSG partners.
Whatever money is left could be invested in a number of ways, including upgrading the current teams’ rosters.
After winning their last World Series title in 2018, the Red Sox substantially slashed their payroll, notably trading star outfielder Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who later signed Betts to one of the largest contracts in the sport’s history. Liverpool has won the Champions League and Premier League in recent seasons but has also been reluctant to spend on roster depth, a decision that has caused a crisis this season after a rash of season-ending injuries to important players.