Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lebron James gets piece of Liverpool


LeBron James, a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player now chasing an NBA crown with Miami, is branching out to other sports -- at least in business.

Fenway Sports Marketing (FSM), sister company to baseball's venerable Boston Red Sox, said Wednesday it had signed James to a long-term deal to handle his marketing.

As part of the bargain, James has obtained a small piece of storied English Premiership club Liverpool, FSM president Sam Kennedy said.

"Liverpool is one of the most important clubs in all of sports and I am excited to be affiliated with this incredible organization," James said.

FSM is owned by Fenway Sports Group, which is also the parent company of the Red Sox and Liverpool FC and a co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing.

"Eighteen championships," James said of Liverpool's success. "I see myself trying to do the same things they have."

The Wall Street Journal reported that James's minority stake in Liverpool marks the first time a professional athlete at the top of his game has taken an ownership interest in a team of such global reach.

"We believe this will be a powerful collaboration," said Tom Werner, an FSM co-owner with John Henry. "There are very few athletes who can match his global reach, appeal and iconic status.

"We're very excited that LeBron will be part of the Liverpool FC family. LeBron and Liverpool each has a powerful presence internationally, with particular strength in Asia.

"But we feel the business opportunities for both working and being identified together in emerging international markets will result in unforeseen opportunities that neither would have been able to realize alone."

The deal comes as part of a partnership between FSM and "King" James's own sports-marketing firm, LRMR Branding and Marketing. FSM will handle global marketing for James.

"What FSM does for Roush Fenway, Liverpool and the Red Sox, we will now do for LeBron James," Kennedy said. "We will aggressively pursue business opportunities for him."

James, the two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, joined the Miami Heat this season and together with All-Star teammates Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade has the club a title contender for the upcoming NBA playoffs.

"These guys, like me, have a passion for sports," James said. "You can see the drive and commitment they have for their teams. For me, this is about being in business with an organization that loves sports as much as I do."

Kennedy said FSM is not looking to get into representing individuals, but the chance to build a brand with an athlete of James' caliber was too good to miss.

"We are fortunate to have blue-chip brands like the Red Sox, Liverpool and Roush Fenway," Kennedy said. "This represents the next step in our evolution, to represent one of the most recognizable athletes on the planet."

Fenway Sports Group, founded as New England Sports Ventures, completed their takeover of Liverpool in October, to the bitter disappointment of former co-owner Tom Hicks, who believed he could sell the club for more despite it's load of debt.

"LeBron shares our love of all sports and we are very excited to make him part of the Liverpool family," said Ian Ayre, managing director of Liverpool FC. "We look forward to working with LeBron, LRMR and FSM, and exploring the business opportunities this new relationship could bring forth."