May 25 – Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani has sold a minority stake in the club to 49ers Enterprises, an investment entity affiliated with the San Francisco 49ers NFL team.
The new shareholding will see Paraag Marathe, president of 49ers Enterprises and executive vice president of football operations, take a seat on the Leeds board.
“The partnership with 49ers Enterprises strengthens the commercial, operational and sporting capabilities of the Club and further supports Radrizzani’s commitment to bring success to Leeds United on the pitch,” said a Leeds statement.
It is understood that the US company has taken a stake of just over 10% paying in the region of £10 million.
Radrizzani, who acquired Leeds in 2017 for Aser Group Holding, his investment business, and has estimated he has spent £100 million on the club and welcomed the deal, saying: “This strategic partnership enables 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 results on the pitch.”
Radrizzani also welcomed Marathe, who is a personal friend, to the board saying: “I am particularly pleased to welcome Paraag to the Leeds United board. 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, who has had 18 years of experience with the 49ers, a team that like Leeds United has had a glorious past but been underachievers in recent times, said: “It is truly an honour to be invited to join the board of a football club as storied as Leeds United. I share the vision that Andrea has for returning Leeds United to greatness. I believe that the knowledge and experience we bring to the table combined with the hard work being done by Andrea and his talented team will make that vision a reality.”
Marathe oversaw the San Francisco 49ers move away from San Francisco to Santa Clara, a suburb of San Jose and attracted criticism whilst chief operating officer for the team’s performances on the pitch. In October 2016, an ESPN ranking of professional sports franchises ranked the 49ers as the worst franchise in North America.
Marathe has no experience of English football, but the 49ers did buy shares in Sacramento Republic, in January 2015, with the hope they might win an MLS franchise, which is yet to materialise.
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