LeBron James is making another move into football, but not the kind American sports fans are rabid over, and definitely not as a player.
James, who already has a financial stake in the English Premier League’s Liverpool club, is part of a group of American sports and private equity execs buying a piece of AC Milan, an Italian soccer team.
The Financial Times first reported the deal, which is worth a reported $1.2 billion. James is part of the deal through Main Street Advisors, a Santa Monica, Calif., venture capital firm in which he’s an investor along with the rapper Drake. Main Street is joined in the deal by the New York Yankees, which is taking a reported 10 percent stake in AC Milan, and RedBird Capital, another private equity firm. The Washington post reported that James and Drake’s stakes are “passive” meaning their investments in the team come through their involvement with Main Street rather than writing a check to buy directly into the team.
Main Street describes itself as “a strategic advisor to, and invests capital alongside, some of the most influential and accomplished people and businesses in media, music, entertainment and professional sports,” according to its web site.
James fits that bill to a tee. The Los Angeles Lakers superstar, 37, recently signed a two-year extension with the team at $91.7 million, which is reportedly the richest contract in NBA history. Not that the brother was starving; Forbes in June named him as the only active athlete in American team sports on their billionaires list, which is based on an estimate of net worth, not salary.
Aside from his success on the court—four NBA titles, 18 All-Star appearances, two Olympic gold medals, James has made being a tycoon a hallmark of his career. He started early on, firing his onetime agent and hiring his high school buddies, including now uber-agent Rich Paul, to negotiate his contracts. Since then, James made a point of expanding the business model for athletes by focusing on equity deals in which he acquired ownership in companies rather than taking a fee for endorsing products.
He’s developed friendships and business partnerships with other moguls including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Tom Werner and John Henry, the latter two being James’ partners in Fenway Sports Group, which owns Liverpool among other sports ventures. James is also a TV and movie producer.
AC Milan competes in the Serie A league, considered the highest level of competition in Italian soccer, as well as in the UEFA Champions League. The team finished first in Serie A in the 2021-22 season, its first championship in a decade.