Leeds United, a newly relegated team, is on its way back to the Premier League with the help of an unexpected source from the United States. The team has sold a minority stake in the club to Ackerley Partners, a Seattle-based holding company and venture capital firm that also owns a minority stake in the NHL’s Kraken. The new capital will be used to enhance both the commercial and football operations of the club.
This move represents another step in the Americanization of the English club as 49ers Enterprises, the strategic investment arm of NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, completed its long-planned takeover of Leeds United in July. The investment arm has been overhauling the club’s functions, swiftly remaking its board of directors and considering whether to bring in another new investor.
Ackerley Partners is led by brothers Ted and Chris Ackerley. Their father, Barry Ackerley, owned Seattle SuperSonics from 1983-2001 and co-founded WNBA’s Seattle Storm. Leeds’ hopes for promotion are holding firm as they are currently in third place in EFL Championship with wins in six out of their last seven matches. If promoted back to Premier League, it would bring significantly more sponsorship and broadcast income with annual media revenue projected to be more than $125 million per club. Additionally, Leeds is one of three recently relegated teams preparing a lawsuit against Everton for violations of profitability and financial sustainability rules which would result in unprecedented Premier League penalties if successful.