Leeds United, a newly relegated team, has found an unexpected source of support in its quest to return to the Premier League. Ackerley Partners, a Seattle-based holding company and venture capital firm, has invested a minority stake in the club and will use the funds to enhance both its commercial and football operations.
The move comes as another step towards the Americanization of English football, as 49ers Enterprises completed its takeover of Leeds in July. The strategic investment arm of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers has been overhauling the club’s functions since then, remaking its board of directors and considering bringing in another new investor.
Ackerley Partners is led by brothers Ted and Chris Ackerley. Their father, Barry Ackerley, was previously the owner of the Seattle SuperSonics from 1983-2001 and co-founded the WNBA’s Seattle Storm. Leeds’ hopes for promotion remain strong as they are currently in third place in the EFL Championship with wins in six out of their last seven matches.
If Leeds can secure promotion back to the Premier League, it would bring significantly more sponsorship and broadcast income to the club. Annual media revenue is projected to be over $125 million per club if promoted back to the top tier. Additionally, Leeds is one of three recently relegated teams preparing a lawsuit against Everton for violations of profitability and financial sustainability rules, which could result in unprecedented Premier League penalties if successful.