Chicago Bears’ Investors Buy Into Bill Foley’s Soccer Company

Ryan Sports Ventures, the sports investment division of the Chicago-based Ryan family, has acquired a minority stake in Bill Foley’s Black Knight Football Club (BKFC), owner of the English Premier League’s AFC Bournemouth. The financial details of the investment have not been disclosed.

The Ryan family’s sports investments include a significant minority stake in the Chicago Bears, as well as funding a proposed new football stadium at Northwestern University. In addition to owning Bournemouth, BKFC holds a significant minority stake in Ligue 1’s FC Lorient. Foley’s growing portfolio of entertainment properties includes the 2023 Stanley Cup Champion Vegas Golden Knights, the Henderson Silver Knights of the American Hockey League, and the Vegas Knight Hawks of the Indoor Football League.

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“We feel confident about the team we have built behind AFC Bournemouth and FC Lorient and are excited about our multi-club model’s immediate and long-term future,” Foley said in a statement. “Adding the Ryan Family and Ryan Sports Ventures further accelerates how far we believe we can take our football business.” 

The Ryan family established Ryan Sports Ventures in May 2022 to increase its investments in sports technology properties and media. The family holds stakes in the Bears, in Penske Corporation, owner of Team Penske racing and the Detroit Grand Prix, and in numerous sports technology funds.

“We are excited by the fact that [soccer] truly is the most global sport in the world,” Rob Ryan, Ryan Sports Ventures’ managing partner, said in a video call. “And we know soccer in Europe has an enormous growth trajectory everywhere and particularly in North America, with incredible things happening.”
He cited the growth of the NWSL and MLS, as well as the upcoming 2026 World Cup.

Ryan Sports Ventures has invested in sports technology companies such as InCrowd, Sportable, Playmaker, Quintar, Tagboard and Boost—a joint venture with the Big Ten and Josh Childress’ group. They are also anchor investors in Will Ventures and Advantage Fund.

“There is a real opportunity in soccer in general, but especially the EPL,” Ryan partner Paul Hourigan said in a video call. “And we’re investing behind companies that try and accelerate on-field performance, the fan engagement portion of the business. That’s why [BKFC] is an attractive investment for us. We can bring them all these great new technologies.”

Foley’s BKFC acquired Bournemouth last December from Maxim Demin with several partners, including a minority ownership group led by award-winning actor and director Michael B. Jordan. The Dorset-based team returned to the Premier League at the end of the 2021-2022 season. According to Sportico‘s latest valuations, the team is worth $145 million.

The team signed USMNT captain Tyler Adams during the summer transfer season for the next five years.

“Whether it’s sponsorship or the fan experience, and talk about maybe expanding the stadium, and then on the soccer football side, we feel equally strong that these are people that know what they’re doing,” Ryan said. “Having a young American star like Tyler Adams, we hope that that will lead to more exposure for Bournemouth in the U.S. with fans of the game here.”

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