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The billionaire backers of new European breakaway football league

The billionaire owners of England’s biggest football clubs have joined up with some of their European counterparts to create a new Super League that has sent shockwaves through the sport. 

The US sports moguls behind Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal: Joel Glazer, John W Henry and Stan Kroenke respectively, are key players in the plans. They have been backed by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich at Chelsea, Abu Dhabi-backed Manchester City and Spurs, owned by British billionaire Joe Lewis, who lives in the Bahamas.

The European Super League plans also involve Spanish sides Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona and Italian clubs AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan. 

American investment bank JP Morgan, which included Jeffrey Epstein and Bernie Madoff as its clients, will give the clubs £4.3 billion in loans to get the competition started. Sponsors and investors are thought to have already been lined up by the bank to bring money into the league.  

Money seems to be the key driver of the new competition, with the club owners hailing from a range of ultra-wealthy backgrounds.  

Arsenal’s Stan Kroenke has been involved with the Gunners since 2007 and took complete control three years ago.

The billionaire, 73, also owns NFL team LA Rams, NBA’s Denver Nuggets, NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and the Colorado Rapids from the MLS. He also has the Colorado Mammoth team in the National Lacrosse League and, since 2017 has been involved in esports, owning teams in leagues for the video games Overwatch and Call of Duty.

Owner of Liverpool FC John W Henry and his wife Linda Pizzuti. Henry is one of the billionaire backers behind the European Super League

Roman Abramovich and Dasha Zhukova attend the Preview of the Spring Exhibition Season at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art on March 9, 2017 in Moscow. She was the Chelsea owner's third wife

Roman Abramovich and Dasha Zhukova attend the Preview of the Spring Exhibition Season at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art on March 9, 2017 in Moscow. She was the Chelsea owner’s third wife

Arsenal majority owner Stan Kroenke has been involved with the Gunners since 2007 and took complete control three years ago

Arsenal majority owner Stan Kroenke has been involved with the Gunners since 2007 and took complete control three years ago

Ann Walton Kroenke (second left) is the heiress to the Walmart empire and the wife of Arsenal football club owner Stan Kroenke

Ann Walton Kroenke (second left) is the heiress to the Walmart empire and the wife of Arsenal football club owner Stan Kroenke

Joe Glazer, Co-chairman of Manchester United, celebrates after Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the NFL team his family owns, win the Super Bowl

Joe Glazer, Co-chairman of Manchester United, celebrates after Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the NFL team his family owns, win the Super Bowl

Manchester city owner Sheikh Mansour

Manchester city owner Sheikh Mansour

Manchester city owner Sheikh Mansour is thought to be another key player in the European Super League proposal

Tottenham owner Joe Lewis (left) watched his team play. He is worth around £4billion, according to last year's Times Rich List

Tottenham owner Joe Lewis (left) watched his team play. He is worth around £4billion, according to last year’s Times Rich List

Controversially, he got around NFL rules preventing the ownership of other sports teams by having the Avalanche and Nuggets in his wife’s name.  

Ann Walton, who he married in 1974, is the daughter of Walmart co-founder James Bud Walton and heir to the vast fortune. Kroenke is thought to be worth £7 billion.

News of the Super League enraged fans of Arsenal – but it is not the first time Kroenke has drawn the anger of the supporters of his teams. 

In 2015, he moved his Rams American Football team from St Louis, where it had been based since 1994, to California. The relocation drew anger from fans and even led to a lawsuit against the team and Kroenke from the city of St Louis.

His relationship with Arsenal fans has also been a stormy one, with supporters of the North London club accusing him of ignoring the club by not investing money into it. Frequent protests have been carried out against him and fans have accused him of lacking ambition for a team once considered the best in the country. 

Despite his involvement in sports watched by millions Kroenke prefers to avoid the spotlight and has the nickname ‘Silent Stan.’  

Away from sport, Kroenke is a major landowner, with nearly 1.4 million acres of ranches across the U.S. and Canada.

Kroenke also owns around 30 million square feet of real estate, with much of it in the form of shopping plazas near Walmart stores.  

In 2016, he bought a ranch of 520,000 acres in Texas, worth £520 million, which helped make him one of the top ten landowners in the US. 

Kroenke's house in Columbia, Missouri. Away from sport, Kroenke is a major landowner, with nearly 1.4 million acres of ranches across the U.S. and Canada

Kroenke’s house in Columbia, Missouri. Away from sport, Kroenke is a major landowner, with nearly 1.4 million acres of ranches across the U.S. and Canada

Tom Werner, chairman of Liverpool, poses with Jurgen Klopp and John W Henry, Principal owner, with wife Linda Pizzuti

Tom Werner, chairman of Liverpool, poses with Jurgen Klopp and John W Henry, Principal owner, with wife Linda Pizzuti

Henry is married to Linda Pizzuti, who is 30 years younger than him. His courtship of her was leaked by publications in Boston in 2009, the year they got married

Henry is married to Linda Pizzuti, who is 30 years younger than him. His courtship of her was leaked by publications in Boston in 2009, the year they got married

Henry put his stunning Florida mansion up for sale in 2018 for $25 million before knocking off $10million a year later

Henry put his stunning Florida mansion up for sale in 2018 for $25 million before knocking off $10million a year later

In 2017, he was slammed for launching an outdoor sports TV channel in the UK, which scheduled regular bloodsports and hunting programs, including the killing of elephants, lions, and other endangered African species. 

His son Josh is president and governor of the Denver Nuggets basketball franchise, President and Governor of the Colorado Avalanche ice hockey franchise, and Alternate Governor for the Colorado Rapids soccer franchise. The company also co-owns Elitch Gardens Theme Park. 

In 2013, he was appointed by his father to the board of Arsenal as a non-executive director.

John W Henry, the owner of Liverpool, has an estimated wealth of $2.7bn and also owns baseball side Boston Red Sox and the Boston Globe newspaper.

His company also has stakes in Roush Fenway Racing (NASCAR) and Minor League baseball team the Salem Red Sox.

Henry, worth an estimated $3billion and married to wife Linda Pizutti, made his money from hedge funds and trading company JW Henry and Co before buying the Red Sox with his partner Tom Werner – the Liverpool chairman.

Under their control in 2004 the Red Sox won a first World Series in 86 years. They also ended Liverpool’s 30-year wait for a championship when they lifted the Premier League last season.

As of February 2021, Forbes estimated his net worth to be $2.8 billion. 

Dubbed the 'House of Peace', he bought the six-acre plot in 1991 for $850,000 (£646,000) so stands to make an astonishing profit despite his price-cut

Dubbed the ‘House of Peace’, he bought the six-acre plot in 1991 for $850,000 (£646,000) so stands to make an astonishing profit despite his price-cut

It is unclear if the mansion has been sold since. The property, based in the Le Lac neighbourhood in Boca Raton and has seven bedrooms and 14.5 bathrooms across 27,832 square feet

It is unclear if the mansion has been sold since. The property, based in the Le Lac neighbourhood in Boca Raton and has seven bedrooms and 14.5 bathrooms across 27,832 square feet

In 2016, he splashed out an eye-watering £68 million on a new 215-foot super-yacht which can reportedly accommodate 12 overnight guest in a master suite, three double cabins and two twins, and up to 17 crew in separate quarters

In 2016, he splashed out an eye-watering £68 million on a new 215-foot super-yacht which can reportedly accommodate 12 overnight guest in a master suite, three double cabins and two twins, and up to 17 crew in separate quarters

In 2016, he splashed out an eye-watering £68 million on a new 215-foot super-yacht which can reportedly accommodate 12 overnight guest in a master suite, three double cabins and two twins, and up to 17 crew in separate quarters.

Among the yacht’s most noteworthy features are an ornate fireplace in the main saloon, an infinity pool located aft of the main deck, an elevator, a spa center, a gym and a helipad located on the bow. 

Henry put his Florida mansion up for sale in 2018 for $25 million before knocking off $10million a year later. 

Dubbed the ‘House of Peace’, he bought the six-acre plot in 1991 for $850,000 (£646,000) so stands to make an astonishing profit despite his price-cut. It is unclear if the mansion has been sold since.

The property, based in the Le Lac neighbourhood in Boca Raton and has seven bedrooms and 14.5 bathrooms across 27,832 square feet.

On the main level, there’s a foyer with a sweeping staircase and a two-story living room. Elsewhere, there is a home cinema, a sports bar, a library with cherry wood walls, a gym, a loft with card tables, an underground wine cellar and a recording studio.

There is also a swimming pool with cabana seating, an outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven, a clay tennis court and a pair of motor courts.

Henry was briefly portrayed in the 2011 film Moneyball, which follows Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane and his quest to build a winning team in 2002. Beane turns down an offer from Henry to become the new GM of the Red Sox but the team goes on to win the 2004 World Series by implementing many of his ideas.  

In October 1991, he married a former Russian Aeroflot stewardess, Irina Malandina. They have five children, Ilya, Arina, Sofia, Arkadiy and Anna

In October 1991, he married a former Russian Aeroflot stewardess, Irina Malandina. They have five children, Ilya, Arina, Sofia, Arkadiy and Anna

Roman Abramovic and his then-girlfriend Daria Dasha Zhukova in Portofino in 2013. The two would later marry before getting divorced

Roman Abramovic and his then-girlfriend Daria Dasha Zhukova in Portofino in 2013. The two would later marry before getting divorced

Henry is married to Linda Pizzuti, who is 30 years younger than him. His courtship of her was leaked by publications in Boston in 2009, the year they got married.

In one email sent to her after watching a Boston Celtics NBA match, he wrote: ‘A brief encounter-and-a-half with you gave a cool spin to this little blue planet from my vantage point.

‘I barely know you. I don’t have any illusions about capturing your heart. It’s the small things that ultimately matter. The subtle things. I am honest. I don’t play games. And I see no reason not to say that I’ve been smitten by you and you’ve done me a great service. You’ve very innocently made my world brighter, better, lighter and warmer.’ 

Pizzuti has a Masters degree in real estate development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she graduated from at the age of 26.

She served as the managing director of the Boston Globe for seven years before being appointed chief executive officer of Boston Globe Media Partners last year. 

Florida-based Joel Glazer is part of the family who have controlled Manchester United since 2005. They also own the NFL team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

United have not won the Premier League since 2013 but during Glazer’s tenure have lifted 12 major prizes and, according to Deloitte, in 2021 are the world’s fourth richest club behind Barcelona, Real Madrid and Barcelona with revenue of $580m.

The Glazers’ money comes from their sporting empires and real estate across the US. They bought the Buccaneers for $192m in 1995 and it is now worth $3.1billion. Likewise they took charge of United, according to Forbes, for $1.4bn with the club reported to be worth more than $3bn.

The family owns First Allied Corporation, an American real-estate holding company that owns and rents out shopping malls across the United States. The company owns over 6.7 million square feet of shopping center space across 20 states, including California, Colorado, Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois, Ohio, New York and New Jersey.

After Malcolm Glazer died in May 2014, his vast $4 billion fortune was shared among his children, including Joel.  

The Glazer family takeover was controversial with supporters who hit out at the debt the club would be forced to take on as part of the deal. 

The majority of the capital used by the Glazers to purchase Manchester United came in the form of loans, the majority of which were secured against the club’s assets, incurring interest payments of over £60 million per annum. 

The Russian billionaire, 54, reportedly boasts a British property empire that includes a 15-bedroom mansion in Kensington Palace Gardens (pictured) that is believed to be now worth £125 million

The Russian billionaire, 54, reportedly boasts a British property empire that includes a 15-bedroom mansion in Kensington Palace Gardens (pictured) that is believed to be now worth £125 million

The empire also includes a £22million three-storey penthouse at the Chelsea Waterfront (pictured) which was completed after his visa expired and was made in his name

The empire also includes a £22million three-storey penthouse at the Chelsea Waterfront (pictured) which was completed after his visa expired and was made in his name

The remainder came in the form of payment in kind loans, which were later sold to hedge funds.   

Furious fans launched F.C. United of Manchester in 2005, which entered the North West Counties Football League and played in the sixth tier National League North from 2015 to 2019. 

Since 2005, the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust has been working on a way of returning ownership of the club to supporters.

The Glazers have seen frequent protests against their ownership of the club and in 2010, a group of wealthy Manchester United fans, dubbed the ‘Red Knights’, discussed a billion-pound takeover bid. 

However, the bid fell through when the Red Knights refused to meet the Glazers’ valuation of the club.

Roman Abramovich was seen as the original billionaire football owner when he arrived at Chelsea in 2003 and transformed the team into a Premier League giant.    

Since he took ownership of the club and invested heavily in big-name managers and players, they have won 16 major trophies, including five Premier League titles and the Champions League.

Believed to be worth around $15billion, according to Forbes, Abramovich also owns stakes in steel company Evraz and Norilsk Nickel – a Russian mining company.

A political figure in his homeland, he was governor of the Chukotka region and donated more than $2million to build schools, hospitals and infrastructure.

The 53-year-old is known to have close relationships with former Russian leader Boris Yeltsin and current president Vladimir Putin.

In fact, it is believed that Abramovich was the first person to recommend Putin for president. 

According to Forbes, Abramovich’s net worth was $12.9 billion in 2019, which makes him the richest person in Israel, 10th-richest in Russia, and the 113th richest in the world. 

His British property empire is worth more than £200million and includes a 15-bedroom mansion in Kensington Palace Gardens that is believed to be now worth £125 million.

Sheikh Mansour built a lavish palace and compound on the highest spot of the Seychelles, La Misere, main island, on the site of a former US tracking station

Sheikh Mansour built a lavish palace and compound on the highest spot of the Seychelles, La Misere, main island, on the site of a former US tracking station

Sheikh Mansour is thought to own Ascot Place, a Grade II-listed 18th century pile at Winkfield, Berks, on the edge of Windsor Great Park

Sheikh Mansour is thought to own Ascot Place, a Grade II-listed 18th century pile at Winkfield, Berks, on the edge of Windsor Great Park

The High Court heard that the Sheikh's assets have included about 140 properties in the most affluent areas of London, including Mayfair, Marylebone, Knightsbridge and Kensington (pictured is one of the properties he owns in Kensington)

The High Court heard that the Sheikh’s assets have included about 140 properties in the most affluent areas of London, including Mayfair, Marylebone, Knightsbridge and Kensington (pictured is one of the properties he owns in Kensington)

The Sheikh's royal yacht, though such is the scale of the Azzam that calling it a yacht barely does it justice. At 590ft it is the largest private ocean-going yacht in the world

The Sheikh’s royal yacht, though such is the scale of the Azzam that calling it a yacht barely does it justice. At 590ft it is the largest private ocean-going yacht in the world

The portfolio includes a flat in Cheyne Terrace, Chelsea, which was purchased for £8.75million in 2017 and includes a high-tech temperature-controlled wine cellar. 

It is close to three other properties that overlook the Thames, bought for £25million, that he had once intended to knock together and turn into a £100million super-home.

However Abramovich, who made his money selling assets acquired from the state following the fall of the Soviet Union, scrapped the plan and sold up after he relented to local uproar.

Abramovich became an Israeli citizen in 2018 after his British visa expired and reportedly owns most of the properties through a holding company called Fordstam

And land registry records show that since the expiration of his visa he transferred 11 properties to the business.

The empire also includes a £22million three-storey penthouse, bought in 2018, at the Chelsea Waterfront which was completed after his visa expired and the purchase was made in his name.

Meanwhile the Kensington mansion, which cost a staggering £90million, is part of what is known as ‘billionaire’s row’.

The desirable postcode is also home to steel magnate Lakshmi Mitta and billionaire business magnate Wang Jianlin. 

Abramovich has become the world’s greatest spender on luxury yachts, and maintains a fleet of yachts dubbed ‘Abramovich’s Navy’.

His 162.5m yacht, named ‘Eclipse’, is one of the many stunning gems within his fortune. It can accomodate 36 guests in 18 cabins and boasts a cinema, conference facilities, children’s playroom, beauty salon, dance floor, two swimming pools, sauna and even a missile defence system.

Abramovich has begun building a ‘megamansion’ in New York, having purchased four Upper East Side townhouses in Manhattan for $74 million. The combined property will be 19,400 square feet, and it is estimated that renovation costs will be an additional $100 million.

Russia’s most prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny, 44, has called for the freezing of the Chelsea football club owner’s assets over his poisoning and arrest. 

Abramovich has been married and divorced three times. In December 1987, following a brief stint in the Soviet Army, he married Olga Yurevna Lysova. They divorced in 1990. 

In October 1991, he married a former Russian Aeroflot stewardess, Irina Malandina. They have five children, Ilya, Arina, Sofia, Arkadiy and Anna. Abramovich married Dasha Zhukova, daughter of a prominent Russian oligarch, Alexander Zhukov in 2008, and they have two children, a son, Aaron Alexander, and a daughter, Leah Lou. 

In August 2017, the couple announced that they would separate and their divorce was finalised in 2018

The money arrived at Manchester City in 2008 and with Sheikh Mansour, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, pulling the purse strings, they never looked back.

Cash was quickly pumped into every area – academy, training ground, playing staff, coaching – and City quickly caught up with, and overtook their neighbours and rivals Manchester United.

They have won four Premier Leagues in that time, look set for a fifth this season and are in the semi-final of the Champions League.

The Abu Dhabi group is the majority owner of the City Football Group which boasts Man City as their flagship team. They also have stakes in teams in the United States, Australia, India, Japan, Spain, Uruguay, China, Belgium and France.

Sheikh Mansour is the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, minister of presidential affairs and member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi. He is the half brother of the current President of UAE, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Mansour also owns stakes in a number of business ventures, including Virgin Galactic and Sky News Arabia. Mansour is the owner of the yacht Topaz, which is worth around £400 million. 

He gave control of Manchester City over to Khaldoon Al Mubarak, one of the royal family’s most trusted advisers. 

Khaldoon’s father was the former UAE diplomat and ambassador to France, Khalifa Ahmed Abdulaziz Al-Mubarak, who was assassinated in Paris in 1984. 

Manchester City has faced widespread condemnation for its Abu Dhabi backing. Though the club has denied being funded by the UAE government directly, Sheikh Mansour retains control of the club. 

A 2017-18 report Amnesty condemned the UAE for unfair trials, lack of freedom of expression, a failure to investigate allegations of torture, discrimination against women and the abuse of migrant workers.

Tottenham Hotspur owner Joe Lewis, 84, is worth around £4billion, according to last year’s Times Rich List.

Born in London he entered the family catering business at 15 but in the 1980s moved into currency trading. He is the major investor in Tavistock Group which owns more than 200 companies in 15 countries.

The group formerly owned stakes in Scottish football team Rangers and Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic.

Lewis lives in the Bahamas as a tax exile. Lewis is also the largest shareholder in the British pub group Mitchells & Butlers.

The Tottenham owner’s art collection is estimated to be worth $1 billion and includes works by Picasso, Matisse, Lucian Freud, and sculptor Henry Moore.

Lewis bought Francis Bacon’s Triptych 1974–1977 in 2008 for £26.3 million, then a record for postwar artwork bought in Europe.

In November 2018 Lewis sold his ‘Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)’ by David Hockney in Christie’s salesroom for $90.3 million. 

Unlike many of their European rivals, reigning LaLiga champions Real Madrid are still fan-owned with around 90,000 fan investors, known as Socios, owning stakes.

Current president Florentino Perez made his fortune in civil engineering and construction and will be the first chairman of the European Super League. 

Barcelona are another of LaLiga’s four member-owned clubs, having been set up under the model in 1899. Over 144,000 fans pay membership every year and have shareholder votes on major decisions.

Last month, Joan Laporta was elected for a second spell as club president. 

Atletico Madrid are majority-owned by Spanish millionaire Miguel Angel Gil Marin, who first became chief executive at the club in 1993 after investment from his father.

Mr Gil Marin, who made his from horse and bull breeding, currently owns a stake of around 52 per cent.

Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer owns around a third of the club after buying out Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group in 2018. 

Juventus have been majority-owned, almost continuously, by the Agnelli family since 1923. The family own around two thirds of the Turin team, with US fund manager Lindsell Train owning around 11 per cent and the rest owned by other investors in the stock market-listed business.

In February, Juventus said it had suffered a loss of 113.7million euros (£98million) and expected to lose more money in the second half of the season amid coronavirus restrictions.

The club’s share price jumped by more than 14 per cent on Monday morning as investors welcomed news of the Super League.

The Agnelli family are descendants of Italian royalty and own the Fiat conglomerate with several car brands including Ferrari under their control.  

Elliott Management, a 42billion dollar hedge fund, has complete control of AC Milan after taking over the club in 2018 and has invested more than 600million dollars.

Elliott has said it will invest another 1.2billion dollars to finance a new stadium to replace the San Siro in a build which has placed further pressure on club finances. 

City rivals Inter are in a far more uncertain position amid reports that Chinese owner Suning is in talks with private equity investors over a sale of the club.

In February, Suning confirmed that reigning Chinese Super League champions Jiangsu FC, which it also owns, would fold amid financial trouble.

Last month, it was reported that US fund Fortress was in talks over a takeover for Inter but no deal has yet been confirmed.

Confirmation that Inter would be included in any Super League could bump up the valuation of the Serie A club.

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