Majority owner of Leeds United, Andrea Radrizzani, says that he expects the National Football League (NFL) franchise San Francisisco 49ers to increase their involvement with the club following their return to the Premier League after 16 years.
After years of struggling and several promotion near misses, Radrizzani’s ownership has seen Leeds return to the Premier League as Championship winners within three years.
In 2018 49ers Enterprise, the investment entity behind American football giants San Francisco 49ers entered a partnership with Leeds United, with the intention to give the club access to San Francisco’s ‘rich source of business and sporting expertise’. With funds invested in the collaboration being used to improve results on the pitch and the Yorkshire club will need more investment to remain competitive following their promotion.
Radrizzani has said the initial investment would come from his holding company Aser Ventures, but stated that additional support could eventually be provided by the 49ers, who paid £10 million (US$12.6 million) for a 10 per cent stake in the club back in 2018.
On a zoom press conference, Radrizzani said that the 49ers "have done a good deal investing in the club with me because they see their investment already worth probably 3.5 times higher in terms of value of what they put in.”
“They are obviously good friends, a good partner and I think they could bring more value in the management of the club in the Premier League than what has been done until now.
“I expect them to help us more, step up and potentially in the future years in the Premier League in club management, particularly the stadium and merchandise.”
With a stake in the club already, 49ers Enterprises are reported to be interested in a potential takeover. At the time of the original partnership a full takeover was not on the cards, but things have now changed. It is understood that Radrizzani included an option for 49ers Enterprises as part of their deal and the Americans are ready to push through a full takeover.
Leeds have also been connected with investment from Qatar Sports investments (QSI), which own French football team Paris Saint-Germain.
Radrizzani spoke in the zoom call that he was in talks with QSI but no concrete negotiations were discussed.
“We have a very good friendship,” he said. “We have been talking, but to be honest we haven’t reached any concrete point of any negotiation.”
“But we are really good friends and if they want seriously to come, they can always find my door open for a discussion, but at this moment there’s nothing.”
Radrizzani has given Leeds back a solid foundation and in 2017 brought Elland Road back under the club’s control for the first time since 2004 when it was sold off and leased back during a period of financial crisis following Premier League relegation.
The Italian businessman is believed to have paid around £20 million to buy it back soon after taking control, but could be ready to cash in on his 90 per cent stake in Leeds as the club seeks to take the next step. Now that they are at last back in the top flight – a return to the Champions League is already being targeted as the club also looks to tie down manager Marcelo Bielsa.
Radrizzani, who is thought to have paid £45m to buy Leeds from former Cellino – but then invested heavily thereafter – stands to pocket around £250m for selling his 90 per cent stake.
Author: Maddison Taylor