LIVERPOOL’S owners have handed a minority stake in the club to American basketball superstar LeBron James.
Fenway Sports Group have struck a deal with the Miami Heat player’s sports marketing firm LRMR Marketing and Branding which in return will see them become his exclusive worldwide representative.
Reds chairman Tom Werner is confident the business agreement will prove to be mutually beneficial with both parties able to tap into new markets.
“We believe this will be a powerful collaboration,” Werner said.
“There are very few athletes who can match his global reach, appeal and iconic status.
“We are very excited that LeBron will be part of the Liverpool FC family.
“LeBron and Liverpool each has a powerful presence internationally, with particular strength in Asia, but we feel the business opportunities for both working and being identified together in emerging international markets will result in unforeseen opportunities that neither would have been able to realise alone.
“We believe we can open doors for LeBron and LeBron can open doors for us.”
The deal has been made between Fenway Sports Management, a subsidiary of Fenway Sports Group, and James and his business partner Maverick Carter.
They will work on securing marketing, sponsorship and business opportunities for James across the globe.
It’s part of a plan by Fenway Sports Group, which also owns baseball side Boston Red Sox, to expand into an international company and be associated with iconic, worldwide brands.
Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre has also welcomed the partnership with one of the NBA’s biggest names.
“LeBron shares our love of all sports and we are very excited to make him part of the Liverpool family,” Ayre said.
“We look forward to working with LeBron, LRMR and FSM, and exploring the business opportunities this new relationship could bring forth both here in the UK and abroad.”
James, known by fans as ‘King James’, who won gold with the United States at the 2008 Olympics and on two occasions has been voted the NBA’s most valuable player, said he was ‘humbled’ by the deal and is looked forward to visiting Anfield.
“I am thrilled to be working with John Henry and Tom Werner,” said the 26-year-old. “These guys, like me, have a passion for sports. You can see the drive and commitment they have for their teams.
“For me, this is about being in business with an organisation that loves sports as much as I do.
“This is a great opportunity for me. Liverpool is one of the most important clubs in all of sports, and I am excited to be affiliated with this incredible organisation.”
Fenway Sports Group, who bought Liverpool for £300million last October, haven’t revealed the financial terms of the agreement but it’s believed they will receive a small commission on any deals they land for James.
It adds another dimension to the business interests of the Boston-based sports investment company.
Fenway Sports Management has become a leading sports marketing firm in recent years, selling $60 million in sponsorships each year for properties Fenway Sports Group owns or represents.
But this is the first time Fenway have represented the commercial interests of an individual sports star.
They hope to gain access to international business opportunities that go beyond the usual athlete endorsement deals.
In addition to his $15.8 million salary from the Miami Heat, James earns around $30 million annually from endorsements with companies like McDonald’s, Nike and Coca-Cola.
However, his image was dented last summer when he was criticised for teaming up with ESPN to create an hour-long special during which he announced his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for Miami Heat.
So far James’ commercial interests have largely been limited to his endorsement deals but he’s made no secret of his desire to branch out.
Talks had been ongoing since February with James attracted by Fenway’s expansion into an international company following their acquisition of Liverpool.
“Eighteen championships,” James said, referring to the number of league titles the Reds have won.
“I see myself trying to do the same things they have.”
Werner added: “Without purchasing Liverpool, we never would have been able to have this conversation.”