LeBron James Gets Liverpool Stake; Fenway Sports Becomes Marketing Manager
Under terms of the agreement between LRMR, James’s marketing company, and Fenway Sports Group, which is owned by John Henry, a commodities hedge-fund billionaire, FSG becomes the exclusive representative for the two-time National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player. James of the Miami Heat gets an undisclosed minority stake in Liverpool, an 18-time English champion.
The union of James and Fenway Sports Group, which also owns 80 percent of New England Sports Network and half of Nascar’s Roush Fenway Racing, will help each to extend its brand globally, Paul Swangard, managing director of the University of Oregon’s sports marketing center, said in a telephone interview.
“It’s an interesting marriage of two brands with global ambition,” Swangard said. “For Fenway, it continues to diversify the notion of not just being about the stadium they’re named for. They’re now into soccer, leveraging into basketball.”
The statement announcing the affiliation between James, who consults with Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman Warren Buffett, and FSG didn’t mention the basketball player getting ownership stakes in any other Fenway properties.
“LeBron and Liverpool each has a powerful presence internationally, with particular strength in Asia.” Tom Werner, an owner in Fenway Sports Group, said in a statement. “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 realize alone.”
The NBA announced this week that for the first time replica player jerseys would be available in India at Adidas AG (ADS) stores. James and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers are among the four being sold in the 1.2 billion population nation. Last year, James had the second-best-selling NBA jersey in the U.S., China and Europe behind Bryant, 32, who has won five championships. James, 26, has yet to win a title.
A Nike Inc. (NKE) endorser, James has said he wants to become the first athlete billionaire. He has a six-year, $110 million contract with the Heat, who during the offseason added James and All-Star Chris Bosh to a roster that already included Dwyane Wade.
Maverick Carter, chief executive of LRMR and a high-school teammate of James’s in Akron, Ohio, said in a telephone interview he met with several athlete representation firms before he was directed to FSG by Paul Wachter, a Time Warner Inc. executive who advised Henry and Werner on their purchase of the Red Sox.
“They are owners of some of the biggest clubs and sports brands in the world,” said Carter, who had met Henry and Werner at a Berkshire Hathaway function. “They own them. They don’t just represent them.”
FSG and James are already at work, Carter said. James in the next few days will announce an affiliation with a luxury fashion brand. In addition, the player in the next few weeks will reveal an “innovative venture.” Carter declined to give details on either initiative.
James announced on national television in July that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Heat. NBA Commissioner David Stern was among those criticizing him for doing it on a TV special, even though “The Decision” show was ESPN’s highest- rated non-National Football League program of 2010.
The agreement with Fenway may pose one conflict for James, who is a fan of the New York Yankees. James wore a Yankees cap to a playoff game between the Cleveland Indians and the Yankees, and even endorsed a Nike basketball shoe in Yankee pinstripes.
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