According to recent reports, Leeds United have sold a minority stake to 49ers Enterprises, an investment arm of the San Francisco 49ers. The shareholding will be around 10 per cent, and 49ers Enterprises president Paraag Marathe will serve on the board alongside Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani, Angus Kinnear, Andre Tegner and Ivan Bravo.
Though the 49ers haven’t won a Super Bowl since Steve Young was chucking touchdowns to Jerry Rice in 1994, San Francisco is one of the historically successful franchises of the NFL, boasting five Super Bowl championships and 19 division titles since 1970.
The 49ers were ranked last year as the fifth most valuable NFL franchise at $3.05 billion, and there is reason to believe their new stake in Leeds United will facilitate the Yorkshire outfit’s first return to the Premier League since relegation in 2004.
Below are three reasons to believe the new investment will be good for Leeds:
Marathe’s career ascended quickly after he acquired his MBA from Stanford’s business school in 2001. A staple in the 49ers’ organization since then, Marathe is known to be a numbers guy with fascination with how finances and statistics fit into an NFL team.
Currently serving as San Francisco’s Executive Vice President of Football Operations and the president of 49ers Enterprises, Marathe has played a key role serving as CEO Jed York’s right-hand man. Together they built a roster that won an NFC championship and reached the Super Bowl in 2012. Marathe also was critical in the development and construction of Levi Stadium, the 49ers home stadium since 2014.
Marathe has been garnering front-office experience since before he could legally drink, and he will bring his dynamic influence and mindset to a club that could surely use it.
Leeds United have fallen on hard times since being relegated from the Premier League in 2004. The Whites have been floating in mediocracy in the Championship, falling outside the top six teams in each year since 2010.
Leeds clearly need not only a change in talent but also a change in culture. A big part of that includes new signings with different mindsets and the 49ers’ new stake will provide the Whites with a push for players like Abel Hernandez and Kyle Bartley – who will be in demand amongst second-tier clubs this summer.
As Leeds fight year after year with other clubs to climb out of the Championship and back into the Premier League, it’s clear they view the 49ers’ investment as a way to gain extra footing. When considering other clubs that have ascended out of the second-tier, it looks like a smart move.
The two first-place finishers in the Championship this season — the teams that will reap the benefits of playing in the Premier League next season — were Wolverhampton Wanderers and Cardiff City. Both are controlled by outside ownership. Fosun International, a Chinese group, bought the Wolves in 2016 for £45million, and Cardiff City is owned by a Malaysian businessman Vincent Tan.
Moreover, the two clubs — Aston Villa and Fulham — who will compete for the last promotion spot on Saturday both have foreign ownership. Attracting investments from outside players has worked for other teams in their bids for Premier League status, and if Leeds play it right, it could work for them too.