Ex-MLB Star Jose Bautista Buys USL’s Las Vegas Lights FC

Retired Major League Baseball All-Star José Bautista has reached an agreement to purchase United Soccer League’s (USL) Las Vegas Lights FC. As a primary investor, Bautista will assume the role of chairman and governor of the club. Financial details of the investment were not disclosed.

“As a former professional athlete who loves business and sports, investing in sports teams is almost something that you always dream of,” Bautista said in a video call. “I got lucky that the Las Vegas conversation got started by coincidence through a mutual friend and just understanding there was a possibility, I immediately entertained it, knowing what’s happening in Vegas and what’s going to continue to happen in Vegas with sports in the last few years and onto the future.”

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The Las Vegas Lights are not Bautista’s first venture in the sports business. He was an early equity partner, lead investor and board member for Marucci Sports, a baseball equipment startup sold to Compass Diversified Holdings in 2020.

He also invested in Canada Goose, a Canadian outerwear company that went public in 2017, and Endy Sleep, a Canada-based e-commerce company that sells sleep products, which was acquired by Sleep Country in 2018. He also is a partner and senior advisor to MyAccountant, a leading personal finance technology company based in Australia.

Additionally, Bautista has partnership agreements with Audi, Hublot, Coca-Cola, TD Bank, General Mills, The Players Tribune and New Balance.

Bautista played for eight clubs throughout his 14-year professional career, including nine seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. He was named an MLB All-Star six years in a row from 2010-15 and led the majors in home runs in 2010 and 2011, the same years he won the Hank Aaron Award, given annually to the top offensive performer in each league. Most recently, he earned a bronze medal with the Dominican Republic, his home country, at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

“Jose’s vision and values align perfectly with our league’s ambitions and the positive impact our clubs are having in their local communities,” said USL deputy CEO and chief real estate officer Justin Papadakis in a statement. “José is the latest in a recent series of world-class athletes to invest in USL clubs, a clear indication of our league’s increased prominence in the professional sports industry and the real value proposition of investing in soccer today.”

Bautista is joining a list of former and current athletes who invested in USL clubs in the last few years.

"Jose brings a competitive athlete's mindset to everything he does," said USL president Paul McDonough. "And he will certainly bring new expectations for the club's performance, both on and off the field."

Las Vegas Lights FC made its debut in the USL Championship in 2018, and will kick off its 2024 campaign on March 9 at Memphis 901 FC before returning to Cashman Field to host FC Tulsa on March 16.

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