Most are familiar with Chelsea’s owner, Roman Abramovich, who has been a regular sight at Stamford Bridge, overseeing the club’s development and even winning the coveted Champions League. There are though, other less publicised figures who also own Premier League clubs and have built up business success comparable to – or more impressive – than that of Abramovich’s. Here are some of the richest owners in the English top flight.
(9) John Henry – Net worth of £1bn
The American investor is the principal owner of The Boston Globe and Boston Red Sox as well as Liverpool FC, with a total worth of £1bn. He established John W. Henry & Company in 1981 and began taking clients the following year. From 2012, the financial trading firm informed clients it would stop managing their assets from the end of that year.
In 2001 Fenway Sports Group was founded as New England Sports Ventures, when Henry teamed up with Tom Werner, Les Otten, The New York Times Company and other investors to successfully bid for the Red Sox. In 2010, the Fenway Sports Group took over Liverpool too.
Henry said he was interested in buying Liverpool as he saw parallels between the UK city and Boston, in elements such as size, and in terms of significant sporting rivalries – Liverpool’s long-established clash with Manchester United, and the Red Sox’s with the Yankees. He bought the club as it teetered towards bankruptcy under previous owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks. Henry has yet to return the club to past former glories, with current manager Brendan Rodgers seeming in an increasingly tenuous position, as the Champions League places become a more hotly-contested battle than ever before.
(8) Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha – Net worth of £1.8bn
Dubbed the “duty-free King” by Forbes, Srivaddhanaprabha is the founder and CEO of King Power Duty Free – an operator of duty free shops. He currently sits in the top ten of Thailand’s richest people with an estimated £1.8bn fortune. After a three-year shirt sponsorship deal, Srivaddhanaprabha bought Leicester City in 2010 and has been chairman since 2011.
He began establishing respect among fans after overseeing the club’s promotion to the Premier League in 2014, while bucking the trend of playing manager roulette by sticking with manager Nigel Pearson after a tricky period.
Upsetting club structure and heritage can be a quick route to fan anger – Hull’s Assem Allam has butted heads over changing the name to Hull City Tigers, with further plans to drop the “City” entirely causing an uproar, while Cardiff City owner Vincent Tan made the controversial decision to change the club colour from blue to red, before reversing it after fan pressure.
Srivaddhanaprabha made sure his initial time at Leicester City didn’t involve extensive meddling in team matters and plugged in £120m of investment. His patience with Pearson recently ran out however, and there has been a mixed response to the sacking after Leicester’s manager turned around the club’s lacklustre season to keep it in the top flight.
Srivaddhanaprabha also takes a keen interest in polo, owning the VR Polo Club in Bangkok and has also been the president of London’s Ham Polo Club (from 2008 to 2012).
(7) The Glazers – Net worth of £2.86bn
A controversial takeover from 2003 to 2005, the Glazers picked up Manchester United, establishing huge levels of debt – something that didn’t set well with many fans after the club had been debt-free for so many years.
The Florida-based owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ploughed on with their £790m takeover of United despite a rising share price that forced them to rely on hedge funds to complete the deal. It even saw some fans form a breakaway team FC United of Manchester in protest.
The late Malcolm Glazer was the president of First Allied Corporation – a holding company for his assorted business interests. He inherited his father’s wholesale jewellery and watch repair business, before he expanded into real estate investing in single-family homes, duplexes and commercial buildings. Glazer went on to buy the National Bank of Savannah, nursing homes and TV stations.
While United picked up 15 trophies under the Glazers, there has been further uncertainty after the £80m sale of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009 and the retirement of Alex Ferguson in 2013. The debt has been reduced by half and interest payments are a minimal distraction for a club of United’s financial clout – Manchester United recently took over from Bayern Munich as the world’s most valuable football brand – though now big money is now being invested in the squad following the lack of spending from 2009 to 2013.
(6) Katharina Liebherr – Net worth of £3bn
Southampton fans were concerned following the death of Markus Liebherr. He had bought the club in July 2009, taking the club out of administration, but suffered a fatal heart attack the following year.
Liebherr belonged to one of Europe’s top family business dynasties as son of Hans Liebherr, who started a leading manufacturer of construction machinery. Markus was was given equal shares in the holding company in the 1980s when the business moved its management headquarters to Switzerland. He ran his own group of companies from 1994 up until his death and Liebherr’s own holding company DMWSL 613 bought Southampton.
His daughter – with a net worth of about £3bn – has quietly overseen a period of huge change at the club. A plethora of summer sales followed, as both players and manager departed – leaving fans concerned as to where Southampton would progress after an impressive season.
Katharina has maintained her father’s commitment to the club, overseeing canny purchases, appointment of Ronald Koeman as manager, while still focusing on the importance of youth development. Southampton finished in seventh place for the 2014/15 season and fans have so far been impressed by their new owner – often singing renditions of “Walking in a Liebherr Wonderland”.
Read on to find out who makes our top five.
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