Spending in world football has reached all-time high levels. Billionaire club owners breathe lifeblood into clubs in the form of investments, which can take the shape of facility upgrades, expensive player transfers, and high profile coaching hires. These changes can have a massively positive impact on the club in question and the community that surrounds it. Over the past few seasons, clubs on this list have won the Champions League and league titles from around the world. This trend has made ownership of a football club one of the trendiest investments for billionaires looking to raise their public profile.
Investment in major football clubs has long been increasing in expense, but following Roman Abramovich’s purchase and subsequent success with Chelsea, more billionaires have decided to try their hand at club ownership. These changes can be met with resistance by some subsets of fans, but typically the fan reaction to having money to invest is positive, as long as the results on the pitch live up to expectations. This trend has seen clubs perennially on the brink of relegation transformed into title contenders, however not all of these investments have gone so smoothly.
Many trends in world football come and go, however the influence of billionaire owners is one that will surely remain in the game for the foreseeable future. Club owners have a platform that allows them to reach legions of loyal fans located around the globe. These fans make sustained investment in a club a worthwhile one. New Financial Fair Play regulations in UEFA make a returned investment from fans just as important as the initial investment from club owners. When fans and ownership match their passion, ambition, and invest wisely the clubs that they love can reach amazing heights.
All net worth figures were taken from Forbes.com
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20 Joseph Lewis - $4.8 billion - Tottenham Hotspur
Joseph Lewis started off as a waiter for his father’s catering business and has managed to transform himself into the ninth-richest man in Great Britain. Lewis is the principal investor in the Tavistock Group. He has also been involved in currency trading and made a fortune, along with George Soros, on Black Monday in 1992. His successful investments include hundreds of restaurants, pubs, companies, and Lake Nona, a city outside of Orlando, Florida. Lewis is also an avid art collector, and his collection is estimated to be valued at over $1 billion. Despite his success in the business world, his Tottenham Hotspur club has still failed to achieve UEFA Champions League qualification.
19 Denis O’Brien - $5.5 billon – Partial owner: Celtic, Director: Doncaster Rovers
Denis O’Brien made his fortune through Digicel, a mobile phone network provider based in Central America. O’Brien is also a founder of Communicorp Group Ltd., which owns 42 radio stations across Europe. In order to protect his assets, the Irish born O’Brien now considers Malta his country of residence thanks to its generous tax laws on foreign wealth. O’Brien owns a 2.82% stake in Celtic Football Club and served as the director of League One's Doncaster Rovers.
18 Stan Kroenke - $6 billion - Arsenal
Stan Kroenke is a successful real estate developer, who owns sports franchises on both sides of the Atlantic. Along with his NBA, NHL, MLB, and NFL franchises, he is also the primary shareholder of Arsenal Football Club since 2011. He has been a member of the board of directors since 2008. Kroenke is married to Wal-Mart heiress, Ann Walton. In addition to his television network and real estate empire, Kroenke owns two California vineyards and three ranches.
17 T16. Leonid Fedun - $6.5 billion - Spartak Moscow
Leonid Fedun began as a military commander and following his dismissal from the Russian military in 1993, he became involved in the privatization of Lukoil. After meeting Lukoil CEO, Vagit Alekperov Fedun in the 1980s, Fedun assisted in the privatization of Russia’s top oil properties. He now owns 9.2% of the company and also oversees the investment group IFD Kapital. Fedun has used his wealth to purchase Spartak Moscow and has spent $500 million to build a new stadium, the Otkrytie Arena.
16 T16. Suleyman Kerimov - $6.5 billion - Anzhi Makhachkala
Suleyman Kerimov is a controversial business figure who earned the nickname “Russia’s Richest Civil Servant.” His business dealings included investment in Russian companies Gazprom, Fedprombank, and the oil trading company Nafta Moskva. After selling off nearly all of his Russian investments prior to the 2008 economic downturn, he invested heavily in failing American financial institutions and Russian gold producer, Polyus. Kerimov has invested significantly in Anzhi, attracting players such as Samuel Eto’o and Roberto Carlos.
15 Silvio Berlusconi - $7.9 billion – AC Milan
The former Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi, amassed his fortune from his controlling stake in Mediaset. He has been an influential figure in Italian soccer since taking over as owner of AC Milan in 1986. During his tenure with the club, Milan has won eight Serie A titles and five European Cups/UEFA Champions League titles. From humble beginnings, Berlusconi has become a billionaire that saved Milan from the brink of extinction and ushered in an era of prosperity on and off the pitch. His daughter, Barbara, serves alongside him on the board of directors.
14 Dietrich Mateschitz - $8.5 billion - FC Salzburg, New York Red Bulls
Dietrich Mateschitz is the man behind the energy drink Red Bull. Mateschitz founded the company in 1984 and now owns 49% of it. He has boosted his company’s profile by investing heavily in sports, notably three soccer clubs Red Bull Salzburg, Red Bull Leipzig, and the New York Red Bulls. He is also the owner of Red Bull Brasil, a Brazilian club playing in the Sao Paolo Championship. Mateschitz has been a generous investor to extreme sports and even financed Felix Baumgartner’s freefall from the brink of space.
13 Dmitry Rybolovlev - $8.8 billion – Monaco
Dmitry Rybolovlev made his fortune through investments in Uralkali, Russia’s largest producer of potassium fertilizers. Rybolovlev made a name for himself by purchasing high profile pieces of real estate, including Donald Trump’s Palm Beach mansion. He sold his stake in the company for $6.5 billion in 2010. In December 2011, he purchased a 66% share of AS Monaco, a once great football club in France’s Ligue 1. He has invested significantly in the club and succeeded in returning them to the UEFA Champions League. Earlier this year, he was ordered by a Swiss court to pay ex-wife Elena $4.5 billion, in what is considered to be the most expensive divorce in history.
12 Roman Abramovich - $9.6 billion – Chelsea
Roman Abramovich can be considered a trailblazer for billionaire owners having an immediate positive impact on their club. Abramovich amassed his fortune is a series of controversial oil export transactions, including acquiring Russian oil giant Sibneft for a fraction of its market value. He used some of the proceeds to purchase Chelsea Football Club in 2003 and has spent liberally since. After investing in a new training facility, elite management staff, and spending considerably in the transfer market, he has been rewarded with three Premier League titles, a UEFA Europa League trophy, and a UEFA Champions League title. He has also developed a reputation for firing losing managers.
11 Philip Anschutz - $11.2 billion – Los Angeles Galaxy
Philip Anschutz has found success through his privately owned Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), as well as successful ventures in oil, railroads, and telecommunications. In 2010, Anschutz sold his holdings in the Marcellus Shale and Bakken Shale oil fields, which earned him an estimated $3 billion. AEG has invested significantly in the Los Angeles Galaxy and Major League Soccer. At one time, Anschutz owned six MLS franchises and is responsible for helping the league through periods of financial hardship. Away from his business ventures, Anschutz has an extensive art collection, some of which can be seen on display in the Denver Art Museum.
10 Rinat Akhmetov - $12.8 billion – Shakhtar Donetsk
Rinat Akhmetov is the son of a coal miner, who is now a Ukrainian oligarch that is at the center of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. He is a founder and owner of System Capital Management, which has successful investments in hundreds of companies in a variety of industries. Since taking over Shakhtar Donetsk in 1996, the club has won eight Ukrainian Premier League titles. He also oversaw the construction of the club’s home stadium, the Donbass Arena. The Donbass Arena was home to the 2012 European Championships, but has recently been occupied by separatist rebels.
9 John Fredriksen - $14.5 billion – Valerenga
John Fredriksen is an oil and shipping magnate that controls the world’s largest fleet of oil tankers. Fredriksen made a fortune in the 1980s, when his oil tankers moved oil during the Iran-Iraq wars. Fredriksen is an investor in companies Seadrill, Deep Sea Supply, Golden Ocean Group, Marine Harvest, as well as Norwegian Tippeligaen club, Valerenga. His Seadrill investments alone, yield over $400 million in dividends annually, which has enabled Fredriksen to move the team into a 22,000 seat stadium, the Ullevaal Stadion. Fredriksen has also absolved the club of its debts.
8 Francois Henri Pinault - $15.5 billion – Stade Rennes
Francois Henri Pinault is a businessman and CEO of Kering, the company that owns Gucci, Yves St. Laurent, and Puma among others. Kering was founded by his father Francois Pinault in 1963 and has grown significantly. This growth has allowed Pinault to acquire French Ligue 1 team, Stade Rennes. Following his high profile divorce from supermodel Linda Evangelista, he married actress Selma Hayek. He also operates Groupe Artemis, a holding company that manages the family’s investments in art, insurance, and wine.
7 Lakshmi Mittal - $16.1 billion – Queens Park Rangers
As the head of the world’s largest steel producer ArcelorMittal, Lakshmi Mittal was forced to take a pay cut last year as demand for steel decreased. Despite this economic hardship, Mittal continues to amass wealth thanks to his stake in Queens Park Rangers who made their return to the English Premier League this season. His 41% stake in ArcelorMittal will likely be boosted by several steel mill development projects taking place in India and the United States.
6 Paul Allen - $16.3 billion – Seattle Sounders
Paul Allen is a co-founder of Microsoft along with Bill Gates and has had successful investments with his company Vulcan, Inc. Allen has invested considerably in professional sports franchises including the Seattle Seahawks, Portland Trailblazers, and most recently as partial owner of the Seattle Sounders. He also owns CenturyLink Field, where the Sounders play their home games. He has also invested significantly in scientific research for artificial intelligence and brain science.
5 Alisher Usmanov - $19.4 billion – Arsenal
Alisher Usmanov is the richest man in Russia. Usmanov has had successful investments in telecommunications, media conglomerates, mining, and steel. He is the majority shareholder of Metalloinvest, which specializes in the manufacturing of steel. While Metalloinvest sponsors Dynamo Moscow, Usmanov is a minority shareholder in Arsenal Football Club. Despite his best efforts, he missed out on an opportunity to become majority shareholder to Stan Kroenke. He has expressed a continued interest in Arsenal’s success on the field.
4 George Soros - $24 billion – Manchester United, formerly DC United
As chairman of the Soros Fund Management, George Soros is the head of one of the most successful hedge funds in history. In 1992, he made $1 billion in a single day by short selling the British Pound during the Black Wednesday crisis. Soros has invested in soccer: first with DC United in the 1995. He later acquired a minority share in Manchester United when the company went public in 2012. Soros famously champions progressive-liberal politics in America by donating freely to the Democratic Party. He is estimated to have given over $8 billion in charitable contributions since 1978.
3 Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan - $34 billon - Manchester City, Melbourne City, New York City FC
Sheikh Mansour is one of the wealthiest men in the world of football and has found great success since taking over as the owner of Manchester City. The club has won two English Premier League titles under his ownership and has attracted a wealth of talented superstars to the club. He currently serves as the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. He also recently expanded his football investments with MLS expansion franchise New York City FC and Australian A-League club Melbourne City.
2 Amancio Ortega - $62.9 billion – Deportivo de La Coruna
Amancio Ortega stepped down as the chairman of fashion conglomerate Inditex, which operates over 5,000 stores in 77 countries. Inditex operates a number of labels including Zara and Stradivarius. The Spanish fashion tycoon owns La Liga club Deportivo de La Coruna. Despite Ortega’s enthusiasm and passion for the club, Deportivo routinely struggle in La Liga, lagging far behind giant clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid. Despite being a billionaire, Ortega prefers to live a private life and avoids interaction with the media.
1 Carlos Slim Helu- $86.3 billion – Club Pachua, Club Leon, Real Oviedo
As the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim Helu has built a fortune through investment in his conglomerate, Grupo Carso. He is also the President and Chief Executive of Mexican telecom companies America Movil and Telmex. America Movil purchased a stake in two Mexican clubs, Club Leon and Club Pachua. He followed that up by purchasing Spanish club, Real Ovideo, in 2012. As the majority shareholder of the club, Helu looks to return the club to La Liga after over a decade of absence from the competition.
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