The rise of sovereign wealth funds benefited big banks on the verge of ruin last year, could the same happen to some of our suckiest sports teams? I swear, if they get rid of our cheerleaders, I’ll take up chess.
Soccer’s top league, the English Premier League, is facing serious issues of foreign ownership. Billionaire Russian oligarchs, Chinese businessmen, a few sheikhs from the Middle East, and even a couple of dastardly Americans have taken over ownership of the game’s most prestigious soccer clubs.
American businessman Malcolm Glazer, the owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, currently also owns Manchester United. While Tom Hicks (Dallas Stars and Texas Rangers) last year purchased famed Liverpool FC jointly with George Gillet (Montreal Canadiens).
Those guys are collecting teams like a serial killer collects bodies. But could it all happen here? Could ‘America’s Team’ be owned and managed by some dude from a country we can’t pronounce?
Darren Rovell from CNBC’s Sports Biz makes a prediction:
But with the rise of Sovereign Wealth Funds and the relative declining value of the dollar compared to the rest of the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s currency, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m predicting that there will be at least five non-U.S. citizens owning teams in the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball or the NHL in the next decade.
Add to the fact the drying up of the financial markets–which means you need more cash upfront to pay for a team and this thing seems like a slam dunk.
Of course this prediction doesn’t include the Seattle Mariners, currently owned by the president of Nintendo and the few Canadian NHL teams that are actually owned by Canadians. Those guys are as American as apple pie in my opinion.
Once a billionaire steps up with enough money to buy a big American sports franchise, it will probably ruffle some feathers. Xenophobic protests and maybe even some racists insults will no doubt be hurled. I would stay away from the message boards for a while. But ultimately, who wouldn’t love an owner with seemingly limitless capital to buy up all the top hitters, dunkers, and passers?
It won’t be completely smooth sailing though. As Rovell points out, most American leagues require a ‘financial background check’ from potential owners.
The NFL will be the hardest because the league doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t allow corporations to own teams, meaning that foreigners will have to present their personal tax returns. But even after all this, the financials are just too good and a lot of these people don’t mind putting their money into something that doesn’t necessarily generate immediate cash flow.
Who knows, maybe with the new ownership, some of the age-old team names will be changed too? Go New York Yangtzes!
CNBC: Foreign Ownership of U.S. Sports Teams – I’m Predicting More, May 23, 2008