49ers Enterprises, the investment entity affiliated with the NFL San Francisco 49ers, acquired a minority stake in League Championship club Leeds United. The partnership will look to strengthen the commercial, operational and sporting capabilities of Leeds United, which is majority-owned by global sports and media investment company Aser Founder & Chair Andrea Radrizzani. 49ers Enterprises President Paraag Marathe, who will now sit on the Leeds United BOD, said that he met Radrizzani roughly three years ago, and discussions around the investment ramped up after Radrizzani took full ownership of the club in May '17. Marathe said that 49ers Enterprises will provide business expertise in several areas, including ticketing strategies, sponsorship and other commercial opportunities, stadium development, technology and player development and training. Marathe declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal, but said that the funds invested by 49ers Enterprises will go toward investment in Leeds United’s first-team squad. The deal is part of a wider business alliance between Leeds United parent company Aser and the investment entity. Marathe said that 49ers Enterprises is now invested in roughly three dozen businesses in and around sports, and that it is "looking at ways to grow the 49ers brand in a lot of different ways." Leeds United finished 13th in this year's League Championship. The club has won three English league titles, but has not participated in the EPL since the ’03-04 season.
'A FIRE ABOUT HIM': Radrizzani’s acquisition last year of a majority stake in the club ended a tumultuous three-year period under former Owner Massimo Cellino, who was banned by England’s football authorities three times and fired six managers during his tenure. Marathe said of Radrizzani’s desire to lead a turnaround following the controversy surrounding the club under Cellino, "He’s very passionate about getting Leeds back up to where they belong. … He’s got a fire about him that he wants to get this club back to where they belong and we want to help him get there." Marathe did not rule out investing in other soccer clubs in the future, but said, "We only want to be a part of things that we can add value to." He also explained that while the deal came together too late in '18 for Leeds United to hold a friendly in S.F. this summer, the organizations will work on getting the English club to the U.S. in the years to come. The Financial Times reported 49ers Enterprises' now holds a 10% stake in Leeds United.