An American billionaire who owns an English Premier League team and an NHL franchise has expressed interest in taking control of a proposed new Oakland A. League team.
License for expansion command,
due to start in the 2024-25 season, has been available since March when Australian Professional League (APL) chief executive Danny Townsend confirmed Auckland and Canberra as priority venues for the two new teams.
As it first became clear Herald On Tuesday, the Auckland license appeared to have gone to a local consortium led by Breaker minority shareholder and US tech entrepreneur Mark Mitchell and former ASB Classic boss Carl Budge, involving a range of business, sporting and football figures.
But a recent overseas bid involving a Premier League club has changed the equation as the Premier League weighs the merits of both.
Companies owned by American insurance and wine magnate William Foley II are behind the proposal.
Foley, 78, owns a majority stake in Premier League club Bournemouth AFC and is the majority owner of the 2022 Stanley Cup-winning Vegas Golden Knights.
Foley’s companies also own several other second-tier sports franchises in the United States.
Foley has business ties to the country as he owns several wineries under his global company (Foley Family Wines), as well as Wharekauhau Lodge north of Wellington, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge famously stayed in 2014 .
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Its New Zealand operations employ around 500 people, concentrated at wineries in Martinborough, Marlborough and Central Otago.
Foley, along with some other investors, spent about US$500 million ($840 million) to buy the NHL expansion license in 2016, the culmination of a two-year plan.
Last December, Foley and a consortium (Black Knight Football and Entertainment), which included Black Panther and Creed star Michael B. Jordan, bet around £150 million ($300 million) to buy Bournemouth Football Club. .
Foley and BKFE subsequently acquired a 33% stake in French Ligue 1 team Lorient. A statement at the time said they were attracted to League One because of the quality of its academies, suggesting Lorient FC would be used to develop Bournemouth players.
Foley’s companies are also linked to clubs in Belgium and Brazil. Like other multi-club owners, Foley will be looking to use vertical integration to take a pyramid approach with Bournemouth at the top. In a short time he became a popular figure at the Cherries due to his willingness to invest in players.
He also left no doubt about who was in control, joking at the time of his Bournemouth takeover that he was a “dictator”, referring to his other shareholders. Before he invested in Bournemouth, he was reported to have considered other options within the Premier League, but they were with minority stakes, which were less attractive.
Foley is also revered among Golden Knights fans as he brought almost instant success. They reached the Stanley Cup Final in their first season before winning the trophy in the 2022 season.
His interest underscores the compelling proposition the Auckland market offers, with an increasingly diverse population and the opportunity to build a team from scratch rather than buying an existing franchise in Australia.
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One of Foley’s representatives in New Zealand did not comment on the potential A-League license bid when contacted by Foley’s representatives. Herald.
Michael Burgess has been a sports journalist since 2005, winning several national awards and covering the Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup and America’s Cup campaigns. As a football fan, Burgess will never forget the noise that greeted Rory Fallon’s goal against Bahrain in Wellington in 2009.