LeBron James joins Yankees to invest in Italian soccer power AC Milan
NEW YORK — Baseball’s elite are getting involved with one of Europe’s most celebrated soccer clubs.
The New York Yankees are becoming a minority investor in Italian champion AC Milan, the second soccer team the baseball power will partially own after MLS’s New York City.
A Los Angeles-based fund that includes LeBron James also is becoming a minority investor in the seven-time European champion under RedBird Capital Partners, The Financial Times reported Tuesday. RedBird is nearing a deal to purchase a controlling interest in Milan for 1.2 billion euros ($1.2 billion).
Gerry Cardinale, who founded RedBird in 2014 and is a managing partner, announced a preliminary agreement in June to buy Milan from fellow American firm Elliott Management. The closing is to take place by the end of September.
Yankees Global Enterprises, the baseball team’s parent company led by the Steinbrenner family, will take a stake of about 10% in Milan, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the final deal has not been announced.
“We’re very confident that the Yankee brand is the most famous sports brand in the world, and we think we can help boost the revenue of AC Milan by being associated with it,” Yankees president Randy Levine said Tuesday.
Milan declined to comment.
The Yankees agreed in 2013 to purchase a 20% stake in the New York City Major League Soccer team that launched in 2015. City Football Group, Manchester City’s parent company, is the controlling owner.
Yankees Global Enterprises also owns stakes in the YES Network and Legends Hospitality, formed in 2008 with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
“It came about based on our relationship with Gerry and RedBird that goes back over 25 years,” Levine said. “The Steinbrenners were one of the original investors in RedBird when Gerry started it. We worked very closely with Gerry when he was at Goldman Sachs in building the YES Network and Legends Hospitality. He was involved with Goldman’s work on the new Yankee Stadium when RedBird was formed and YES was purchased back from Disney, RedBird became a partner with us and YES.”
The Yankees, 27-time World Series champions, are signing a separate marketing agreement with Milan, a 19-time Italian champion, that will include broadcasting replays of games on the YES Network, as Manchester City does. There also will be cross-merchandising between the pinstripes and the Rossoneri.
“We have a little familiarity with soccer - we’ve learned a little since our relationship with City Football Group,” Levine said. “We think it’s a good investment. Like with Man City, we do not intend to get involved in running the soccer side. We leave it to the experts. We’ve got enough to do on the baseball side.”
New York City plays most of its home games at Yankee Stadium, and Levine is helping lead the search for a site for a soccer stadium for the MLS team.
Milan is coming off its first Italian title in 11 years.
Main Street Advisors, the fund supported by James, also counts the rapper Drake among its partners, as well as English Premier League club Liverpool and the Boston Red Sox.
James and Drake will be passive investors in Milan through the fund and have not taken direct stakes, according to The Financial Times, which first reported the investments.