Los Angeles Lakers power forward LeBron James is one of the biggest stars in sport, but he is not just famed for his prowess on the basketball court.
Off the court, the man affectionately known as ‘King James’ has been diligently honing his business acumen and has been investing the wealth that he has acquired through his exploits in the NBA in a variety of ventures.
As well as securing lucrative endorsements with brands such as Nike and negotiating clever deals with the likes of Beats Electronics, James has also branched out into the Premier League after becoming a minority shareholder in Liverpool, one of English football’s most successful teams.
Goal takes a look at when the relationship came about, what it entails and more.
When did LeBron James get involved with Liverpool?
James’ involvement with Liverpool began in 2011 and it grew out of his dealings with Fenway Sports Group (FSG).
Then playing with Miami Heat, he had struck a partnership with FSG – who had just bought Liverpool from George Gillett and Tom Hicks – which saw the group become his chief marketing agency. Part of the deal with FSG was that he also acquired a minority stake in the Reds.
“I am thrilled to be working with [FSG founders] John Henry and Tom Werner,” James said when the news was announced.
“These guys, like me, have a passion for sports. You can see the drive and commitment they have for their teams. For me, this is about being in business with an organisation that loves sports as much as I do.”
James subsequently compared Liverpool to the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees and – perhaps annoyingly so for Reds fans – Manchester United in terms of their global brand appeal and signalled his intention to help them grow further.
“Any time you have so much history and so much power behind their story, there is great potential to continue that expansion,” he said in an interview with the Guardian.
“Liverpool are definitely one of those clubs. They really are like Man U – and the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees.
“There are some teams and logos you see, no matter where you are in the world, and you know exactly who they are and what they mean. I see Liverpool in that group.”
James was later brought into Liverpool’s ownership group by FSG in March 2021.
How much is LeBron James’ stake in Liverpool worth?
James’ stake in Liverpool is reported to be two per cent and while that may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things it is proving to be a very shrewd investment for him.
When he first acquired the two per cent share in the Anfield club in 2011, it was estimated to be worth approximately $6.5 million (£4.9m) but that number has grown considerably thanks to Liverpool’s rising value.
By 2018 James’ share in the club was reported by ESPN to be worth to $32 million (£24m) and continued to rise in the following years, having most recently been valued at £37 million ($51m) by KPMG.
The steady rise in Liverpool’s value since James first became a minority shareholder is down to the club’s consistency on the pitch, which culminated in Champions League glory in 2019 and a Premier League crown in 2020. The Reds were also crowned world champions after winning FIFA’s Club World Cup.
Liverpool’s worth was put at $1.9 billion (£1.4bn) by Forbes in 2019, which at the time meant they were in the top 10 most valuable football clubs in the world. However, the value has since dropped, in large part due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Does LeBron James go to Liverpool games?
While he’s not a regular sight at Anfield, James has been to see Liverpool play, notably taking in a derby match against Manchester United in 2011.
The iconic basketball player was kitted out in a suit with a red and white tie and he had a Liverpool scarf draped around his neck, leaving no doubt as to where his allegiance lay.
“To be at Anfield and see 40,000 fans screaming at the top of their lungs, the whole game, was an unbelievable experience for me,” he said afterwards of his Merseyside visit.
On that occasion James was also given a tour of the famous stadium, meeting Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard, as well as club icon Kenny Dalglish.
He joked of the meeting with Dalglish: “King Kenny is something else! His accent is very strong. So it was very difficult to understand what he was saying.”
— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 1, 2019
He may not necessarily get to games on a frequent basis but James is supporting the club from afar – notably tweeting his joy following the 2019 Champions League and 2020 Premier League triumphs – and has been pictured wearing Liverpool gear.
However, he risked the ire of Reds fans in 2018 when he named Manchester United – failing to mention Liverpool at all – as an example of “historic franchises” akin to the LA Lakers. Such a faux pas suggests that owning part of Liverpool is strictly business for James.