La Previa 39: Wrexham in Mexico, NHL in Utah and Messi Mania

On the latest episode of La Previa, Asli Pelit and Walter Franco, the principal and research director of Victus Advisors, discuss some of the biggest sports business stories, including Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s new soccer investment in Mexico, Salt Lake City’s new NHL franchise and the long-term impact of Messi Mania on Major League Soccer (MLS).

Wrexham AFC owners Reynolds and McElhenney purchased a minority stake in Liga MX’s Club Necaxa. A reciprocal transaction includes several Necaxa investors, including actress Eva Longoria, buying a 5% stake in Wrexham.

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Pelit and Franco first discuss the duo’s success with Wrexham, both on and off the pitch. The Welsh soccer team has been promoted twice since the Hollywood stars bought it for $0 in 2020. The club has also built an international audience thanks to the award-winning documentary series Welcome to Wrexham produced by Reynolds and McElhenney.

“They had a lot of growth in the U.S. with EPL fans,” Franco said. “Now, will they go after the same fans, or will they go after Mexican-Americans to grow Necaxa’s audience in the U.S.?”

Pelit and Franco agree that there will be a content component to promote the team in the U.S. “I think they may opt for a 30 for 30 approach with Wrexham,” Pelit said. “It will be harder to convert Mexican fans to support another Mexican team.”

Next, they discuss Lionel Messi’s impact on MLS. Last week, 65,612 people watched the Argentine face the New England Revolution, surpassing the 61,316 fans who showed up at Gillette Stadium for the 2002 MLS Cup title clash between the club and the LA Galaxy. “Right now, the stadiums are filling up because of Messi,” Franco said. “Can they fill the stadiums after he retires? That’s the big question.”

Lastly, Franco shared his insights on Salt Lake City’s new hockey franchise. The NHL Board of Governors voted unanimously to approve a $1.2 billion sale of the Arizona Coyotes from Alex Meruelo to Utah Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith, clearing the way for the franchise’s move to Utah next season.

“Here in Salt Lake, everyone is excited about being able to have an NHL franchise,” Franco said. “There is also a lot of excitement with the possibilities that the Winter Olympics will return in 2034.”

According to Franco, establishing the franchise in Salt Lake has been smooth, thanks to Smith’s track record, which includes acquisitions of the Jazz and MLS’ Real Salt Lake.

Utah is welcoming the NHL team with public enthusiasm, including at the state’s legislative level. The legislature just passed a tax bill that will add to public funds for a hockey arena. “This is a sign from the government, signaling readiness to embrace the sport,” Franco said.

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