Major League Soccer, despite incredible success over the last five years, is still considered by many to be the little brother to America's big four pro leagues. Yet that reputation hasn't kept away some of the world's wealthiest investors. Six of the league's 19 teams are owned, at least in part, by a billionaire, and two more principal owners have close family connections to billion-dollar fortunes. With league plans to expand to 24 teams by 2020, the number of massively wealthy team owners is sure to climb in the coming years.
Perhaps the most obvious billionaire owner is the one whose team is named after the company that generated his massive wealth. The New York Red Bulls, the league's sixth most valuable franchise at $114 million, are owned by and share a name with the energy drink company co-founded by Austrian Dietrich Mateschitz, who is worth $7.1 billion. Mateschitz, who shares ownership of Red Bull with the family of the late Chaleo Yoovidhya, has made something of a habit of buying sports teams and using them as marketing tools for the drink company.
Mateschitz and the Yoovidhyas, through Red Bull, are among the very few non-North American MLS team owners (another is Indonesian Erick Thohir who, along with Jason Levien, recently bought 60% of D.C. United). Most team owners hail from the league's home continent, including Philip Anschutz, who was a co-founder and original investor in MLS.
Anschutz's longterm involvement in the league has led him to own multiple franchises over the last two decades. He currently owns the LA Galaxy and half of the Houston Dynamo, and he's previously owned the Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, D.C. United and the NY/NJ MetroStars (now the Red Bulls).
The 73-year-old billionaire also owns the Los Angeles Kings and a share of the Los Angeles Lakers, and he isn't alone when it comes to MLS owners involved in other American pro sports. Colorado Rapids owner Stanley Kroenke, who is worth $5.3 billion, owns the St. Louis Rams, Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets. The New England Revolution and New England Patriots, who share Gillette Stadium, are both owned by self-made billionaire Robert Kraft.
The wealthiest MLS team owner is Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who is worth $15.8 billion. Allen, another member of the multi-sport ranks with ownership of the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks, is actually a minority owner of the Seattle Sounders. Film exec Joe Roth is the majority owner, while comedian Drew Carey joins Allen as one of the club's three minority owners. Celebrity ownership can be found elsewhere, too - NBA star Steve Nash is a minority owner in Vancouver, and boxer Oscar De La Hoya owns 25% of the Houston Dynamo.
In addition to the league's billionaire owners are two with close familial connections to ten-figure fortunes.
In Montreal, Joey Saputo leads the team of investors, including other Saputo family members, that own the Impact. His father, Emanuele Saputo, is worth $4.3 billion. The Chicago Fire is owned by investment firm Andell Holdings, which is led by Andrew Hauptman. Hauptman's wife, Ellen, is the daughter of Charles Bronfman, the former Seagram owner worth $2 billion.
And of course the $100 million expansion fee paid for the newly formed New York City FC hints that another fortune is joining the ranks. Team majority owner Manchester City FC is itself owned by Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Emerati businessman and politician with access to massive wealth (FORBES doesn't include royal family members in its annual billionaire valuations). The New York Yankees, worth $2.3 billion as of our last MLB valuations, are a minority owner of the new team.
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