US investment firm ALK Capital buys Premier League team Burnley

An American investment group has agreed to take control of Burnley football club, the latest English Premier League side to attract US owners.

ALK Capital has agreed to buy an 84 per cent shareholding in Burnley, which was established as a football club in 1882. A person close to ALK said the deal values the club at more than £200m and that the takeover is being funded by a number of private individuals.

Existing shareholders include chairman Mike Garlick and director John Banaszkiewicz, who together owned a majority. Alan Pace, managing partner of ALK, who will chair the club, praised the outgoing leadership for making it “financially stable”.

ALK is buying the club through Velocity Sports Partners, its sports investment vehicle.

As the coronavirus pandemic hits the finances of the sporting world, US investors have hunted deals in European sport, including football leagues and teams.

“With a rich heritage, a brilliant academy, and a passionate fan base, this club has solid foundations to build upon,” said Mr Pace.

Mr Pace, who previously worked for Citigroup and Lehman Brothers during more than two decades in finance, is a former chief executive of Real Salt Lake, which plays in Major League Soccer, the US and Canada’s top tier for football.

Earlier this year, ALK invested in AiScout and Player Lens, two London-based football technology companies. Data and technology have become critical to success on the pitch and profit in the transfer market.

Burnley made a pre-tax profit of nearly £5m on stable revenue of £138m — driven largely by its share of the Premier League’s lucrative broadcasting contracts — in the year to the end of June 2019, the latest available accounts. Burnley’s pre-tax profit of £45m a year earlier was inflated by selling players.

Despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to blight club revenues because of government restrictions on fan attendance, overseas investors are showing keen interest in Premier League clubs.

However, Saudi Arabia’s £300m takeover of Newcastle United fell through earlier this year, which led the club and billionaire owner Mike Ashley to accuse the Premier League of blocking the deal.

The Premier League, which said the Saudi-led consortium withdrew voluntarily, has approved the acquisition of Burnley, ALK said.

In previous US acquisitions, the Glazer family took control of Manchester United in 2005 and John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group acquired Liverpool, the reigning Premier League champions, five years later. Stan Kroenke, another US billionaire, took control of Arsenal, the London-based team, in 2018.

Josh Harris, a billionaire who helped found private equity firm Apollo, and David Blitzer, a senior executive at Blackstone, have stakes in Crystal Palace, while the San Francisco 49ers NFL team, which is owned by the York family, has a minority stake in Leeds United through its investment arm. Pakistani-American billionaire Shahid Khan owns Fulham.

US private equity firm Advent International has teamed up with Luxembourg-based CVC Capital Partners on a €1.6bn deal to buy into Serie A, Italy’s top football competition. This year, the US billionaire Krause family bought Parma, following Texan billionaire Dan Friedkin’s purchase of AS Roma.


Source: Financial Times