49ers buy stake in Radrizzani's Leeds United
49ers Enterprises, the investment arm of NFL American football's San Francisco 49ers, has acquired a minority stake in Leeds United, of English soccer's second flight.
The agreement for a 10-per-cent holding is part of a wider tie-up between 49ers Enterprises and Aser, the investment company founded by Andrea Radrizzani, and which owns Leeds, as well as international pay-television broadcaster Eleven Sports.
Radrizzani, the former chief executive of the MP & Silva agency, completed his takeover of Leeds a year ago, and will retain a majority stake.
Aser said that funds invested will "remain inside the club and will go towards investment in the first team squad."
According to Aser, Leeds will benefit from the 49ers business expertise in areas including ticketing strategies, sponsorship and commercial opportunities, stadium development, technology, retail and merchandising, and sport development and training.
The club from northern England finished 13th in the second-tier Championship in the 2017-18 season.
It is understood that 49 Enterprises and Aser will look to invest in, acquire or partner with early stage companies across the sports, media, technology and entertainment sectors. There will be a heavy emphasis on technology, considering the 49ers proximity to Silicon Valley.
Radrizzani said: “This strategic partnership enables Aser and Leeds United to align with and gain invaluable expertise from the owners of one of the biggest global sports entities. The 49ers are an innovative, successful organisation and we are delighted to have access to such a rich source of business and sporting expertise.
“This exciting partnership builds on the foundations we have laid down at the club in the last 12 months and we can assure supporters that the funds invested will go towards improving the team on the pitch.”
As part of the investment, Paraag Marathe, president of 49ers Enterprises and executive vice-president of football operations, is taking a seat on the Leeds board of directors.
Radrizzani said: “Paraag comes with a wealth of experience. We look forward to working with him and learning from his deep understanding of a sporting giant.”
Marathe only took on the presidency of 49ers Enterprise in March, having been with the franchise in a number of roles for 18 years.
The 49ers' Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, which opened in 2014, is one of the most hi-tech sports venues in the world, and staged Super Bowl 50 in 2016.
It is also one of the proposed hosts of matches if the USA-Canada-Mexico bid for the 2026 Fifa World Cup is successful.
In an interview with Sportcal earlier this year, Al Guido, the 49ers' president, said he would like the Levi's Stadium to be regarded as "a hotbed for soccer," pointing to the experience it has already built up staging matches at the 2016 Copa America Centenario hosted by USA, International Champions Cup games involving the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona and some fixtures of Major League Soccer's San Jose Earthquakes.
He added: "We've hosted the most events of any [US] stadium that has opened in the last four years."