For genuine football fans, April is the most exciting time of the year. With the season approaching its climax, it is the month when championships are won and lost, and teams battle to avoid relegation.
But last weekend, as Leicester City and Chelsea supporters celebrated reaching the FA Cup final (and dreamt of being among the 21,000 allocated tickets at post-lockdown Wembley), a much less romantic game was being played out.
It was a power-game between the billionaire oligarchs, sheikhs and tycoons who have cynically bought control of England’s most iconic clubs, more interested in the bottom line on the balance-sheet than in what happens on the pitch.
Not content with the fortunes they cream off from the global sale of TV rights and endorsement deals, for months the foreign owners of Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, plus British-run Tottenham Hotspur, have been secretly plotting ways to make yet more money from our national game.
And on Saturday, unbeknown to the ordinary fans whose hard-earned wages boost the coffers of the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ clubs, the phone lines between their mega-rich overlords were abuzz.
Not content with the fortunes they cream off from the global sale of TV rights and endorsement deals, for months the foreign owners of Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, plus British-run Tottenham Hotspur, have been secretly plotting ways to make yet more money from our national game. Pictured: Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke
By Sunday they had put the finishing touches to a plan of such naked greed and arrogance that, to those of us who love the game and follow our home-town team with tribal passion, it almost beggars belief.
Indeed, the gravy train they have set in motion is so divisive and elitist that it threatens to destroy the integrity of the ‘beautiful game’ and set the leading clubs and soccer’s ruling bodies at war.
Colluding with the similarly grasping bosses of famous continental teams such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Inter Milan, they propose to launch their own breakaway competition.
It is to be called the European Super League (ESL) and the fact that it will be funded to the tune of £3.5 billion by JP Morgan bank, and that its founding members will share the spoils, explains why the idea seemed so appealing.
In truth, the word ‘competition’ is a gross misnomer. ‘Clique’ would be a better description.
For under the self-serving system they have mapped out, the criteria that have determined success and failure in football since organised leagues began in the 19th century will no longer apply.
By dint of their wealth and status, the 15 permanent members will be guaranteed their place in perpetuity, no matter how many matches they might win or lose. For poorer and less fashionable clubs — the likes of Burnley, perhaps, or Fulham — entry into this cosy cartel will remain permanently shut, regardless of how well their players perform in our supposedly inferior domestic league.
Colluding with the similarly grasping bosses of famous continental teams such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Inter Milan, they propose to launch their own breakaway competition. Pictured: Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich
Among outraged fans yesterday, the cry was of a ‘closed shop’.
Yet in many ways the proposed ESL is better compared to some outdated London gentlemen’s club, where the old school tie has been replaced by a replica kit. Only those who can afford one should bother to apply.
Leading the backlash was former England and Manchester United star Gary Neville. Now a Sky pundit, he bluntly summed up the sentiments of all real football folk: ‘It’s an absolute disgrace.’
Having spent the best part of 60 years following the fluctuating fortunes of League Two Morecambe FC, home team of the Lancashire resort where I was raised — and gladly paying a tenner a week to watch them on my laptop every week of this pandemic — I couldn’t agree more.
For people like us, football’s best-known cliche, coined by the legendary Liverpool manager of the Sixties, Bill Shankly, is close to the truth. On a Saturday afternoon, when the clock is ticking towards 4.45pm and your team is striving for the winning goal, the game really can seem far more important than life and death.
For better or worse, in our increasingly secular society, it is the closest thing we have to a national religion. Football — proper, grassroots football — lifts us beyond the anxiety and mundanity of our everyday existence and allows us to dream.
If our humble team performs to its outer limits, and Fancy Dan Rovers have an off day, we might just beat them . . . and then them . . . and them . . . and bring home that hallowed cup.
Leading the backlash was former England and Manchester United star Gary Neville. pictured: Joel Glazer, Manchester United co-Chairman
It happened in 2015-16 when, at odds of 5,000-1 against, Leicester City emerged from nowhere to win the Premier League, steamrollering all those rich ‘Big Six’ teams.
And it happened back in 1979 and 1980 when, for two quixotic seasons, Nottingham Forest tilted the towering windmills of Madrid and Milan to become the least likely kings of Europe.
The story of football is decorated with such seemingly impossible moments. They make old eyes mist over and generate stories passed down through the generations. If, heaven forbid, the ESL is formed, all this will end. Football as we know it will cease to exist. And what will all this mean to the remote billionaires behind the Super League? Absolutely nothing.
Such is their affinity with the clubs they own, some only bothered to watch their team play once or twice a season, even when international travel was allowed.
Perhaps it was too much trouble to board their private jet or moor their superyacht in some chilly Channel port.
Or maybe they didn’t relish the prospect of spending 90 minutes in those cramped hospitality boxes, within earshot of the chanting hordes.
So who are the chief protagonists in this high-stakes drama, which seems destined to end in the law courts? And what do we know about their lifestyles?
Among the six Premier League club owners, the driving forces behind the ESL are all Americans, according to insiders.
This may not be a coincidence. For across the pond, ownership of major sporting teams has always been more about big business than philanthropy.
In the U.S, gridiron football, baseball, basketball and ice-hockey outfits are regarded as franchises rather than clubs. If an owner believes he can make more greenbacks by uprooting his team from one city and relocating it thousands of miles away in another, he will have no compunction about doing just that.
Among the six Premier League club owners, the driving forces behind the ESL are all Americans, according to insiders. Pictured: Liverpool FC owner John Henry (left)
It would be laughable to imagine John William Henry, the principal owner of Liverpool, moving the Reds away from Merseyside. But when his Fenway Sports Group bought the ailing club for £300 million in 2010, it surely wasn’t a matter of sentiment.
And in the ensuing decade, this shrewd organisation, described by the business bible Forbes as ‘the most sophisticated, synergised player in the coming age of international sports conglomerates’, has multiplied Liverpool’s value about six times over.
Without, it must be said, winning too many friends, even among the club’s supporters.
When Henry, 71, and his business partner, impresario Tom Werner, first arrived at Anfield with aspirations of winning the Premier League trophy for the first time and reviving the glory years of the 1970s and 1980s, they were hailed as saviours. But since then, their apparent over-eagerness to generate capital from any situation has seen their popularity wane.
For example, they proposed raising ticket prices to an eye-watering £77, a sum way beyond the budget of salt-of-the-earth Scousers. And when the first lockdown closed football grounds last year, Liverpool — the world’s seventh highest-earning club — was among the first Premier League Clubs to furlough its staff.
It hardly went unnoticed that Henry (the son of Midwestern soya bean farmers who flunked his university degree to play in a rock band) spent his downtime reclining on a £68 million yacht with a classical French interior and silk carpets. His personal fortune was recently estimated at £2 billion and in 2019 he reportedly sold his Asian-style custom-made mansion in Boca Raton, Florida, for a knockdown £11 million.
Equally keen to form a lucrative breakaway league are the Glazer family, owners of Liverpool’s sworn rivals Manchester United.
In 2005, when the little-known clan from upstate New York stunned the football world by acquiring Britain’s most famous club in a controversial £790 million deal, I went to their home town of Rochester to investigate their background.
Their story made the purchase even more remarkable. The patriarch, Malcolm Glazer, was a reclusive man of Lithuanian Jewish ancestry who was known as ‘the Leprechaun’ by virtue of his diminutive build and bushy red beard.
Having started out selling watches as a boy, he had bought scores of low-rent properties and trailer parks, where some tenants I spoke to were unhappy with the conditions.
It is to be called the European Super League (ESL) and the fact that it will be funded to the tune of £3.5 billion by JP Morgan bank, and that its founding members will share the spoils, explains why the idea seemed so appealing. Pictured: ENIC International Limited owner Joe Lewis
His reputation among Manchester United fans was lower still. He was accused of saddling the club with debt, failing to invest in top players, and having scant regard for United’s history and traditions.
The fans’ loathing was so deep-seated that many boycotted the team’s matches — and a group of fans formed a new club which, they said, would preserve its values: FC United of Manchester.
Malcolm Glazer died in 2014 and the club is now run, almost always from afar, by his equally secretive sons Joel and Bryan.
The brothers are among the major shareholders in First Allied Corporation — the family’s £3.6 billion holding company, which has a portfolio that spans from real estate to natural gas and oil. Outwardly, it must be said, the Glazers appear rather unlikely tycoons, dressing down and wearing baseball caps on their rare forays to Old Trafford.
Among the many gripes of Manchester United fans, however, is the claim that they still spend too little and take too much.
They have also been attacked for failing to give a solitary interview about their plans for the club; an irony, given Joel’s vocal support for the new ESL.
The third member of the U.S contingent is another habitual absentee: Arsenal’s owner Stan Kroenke, 73.
The owner of Manchester City, Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour (pictured), has been, if anything, even more generous still. By pouring more than £1.3 billion of his reputed £20 billion fortune into the team that former United manager Alex Ferguson once dismissed as ‘noisy neighbours’, he has turned them into Manchester’s top dogs, with a futuristic new stadium thrown in for good measure
A real estate developer and sports mogul worth an estimated £6 billion, he is dubbed ‘Silent Stan’ by disgruntled Gunners fans because he, too, prefers to shun the spotlight.
Supporters of the team, who are currently languishing in ninth place in the Premier League and only narrowly avoided defeat by lowly Fulham at the weekend, bemoan Kroenke’s lack of ambition.
This has seen them fall far below their expected standards, and makes something of a mockery of their pretension to be among the biggest clubs in Europe.
A financial analysis of Premier League clubs in 2020 found he had invested nothing in Arsenal over a five-year period. Yet the club had paid out a £100 million servicing debt and £6 million to his company for ‘advisory services’.
Missouri-born Kroenke also owns a string of top American sports teams and enraged fans of the St Louis Rams gridiron team by moving them to Los Angeles and calling them the LA Rams.
He and his wife, Walmart heiress Ann Walton Kroenke, own America’s biggest ranch, a 535,000-acre Texas sprawl so large that the cities of Los Angeles and New York would fit inside its borders.
Although this trio are said to be among the ESL’s ringleaders, they are not alone in believing they ought to be squeezing more from their ownership of some of the planet’s most recognisable footballing ‘brands’.
We know all about Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich, now 54, who once lived in Knightsbridge but has not been seen in Britain since withdrawing his visa application renewal in 2018, when ministers were raising concerns about Russian influence in the UK.
Before then, he, at least, appeared to be a genuine football enthusiast who enjoyed attending Chelsea matches (though he dismissed managers with ruthless haste if they failed to win him trophies).
He also ploughed a huge slice of his estimated £12 billion fortune into the club, which he took over in 2003 when it was on the brink of bankruptcy.
The owner of Manchester City, Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour, has been, if anything, even more generous still.
By pouring more than £1.3 billion of his reputed £20 billion fortune into the team that former United manager Alex Ferguson once dismissed as ‘noisy neighbours’, he has turned them into Manchester’s top dogs, with a futuristic new stadium thrown in for good measure.
Which brings us, finally, to the lone Briton among the group, Cockney businessman Joe Lewis, the 84-year-old owner of Tottenham Hotspur, who is now preserving as much of his £4 billion fortune as possible as a Bahamas-based tax exile.
Not too bad for a boy who was born above the Roman Arms pub in the East End borough of Bow, and left school at 15 to join the family catering business.
The story behind his fortune is the stuff of legend.
Having moved into currency trading, in 1992 he allegedly teamed up with a group of speculators, including billionaire George Soros, who won a colossal amount by betting on the pound crashing out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism on ‘Black Wednesday’.
Quite a clever geezer. A man of the Tottenham people, however, he certainly isn’t.
For in almost two decades of owning the club, he has only been spotted in the stands a handful of times, spending much of his time on his superyacht, a £113 million, 220ft dream boat.
Lewis also owns an art collection reputedly worth more than £700 million and keeps sprawling estates in Florida and Argentina.
All of which raises one obvious question: why are these six men, who have more money than they could ever wish to spend, hell-bent on forming a new league that is blatantly financially motivated?
They will doubtless claim to have football’s best interests at heart.
Millions of fans, who can foresee the demise of the game they love, will take a different view.
The ‘greedy billionaires’ trying to tear the heart out of the beautiful game: Backers of new European breakaway league include Arsenal owner who married Wal-Mart billionaire, Liverpool’s Mr Moneyball and Manchester United’s Superbowl winner
By Danyal Hussain and Martin Robinson Chief Reporter for MailOnline
The billionaire owners of England’s biggest football clubs have joined up with some of their European counterparts to create a new Super League that has sent shockwaves through the sport.
The US sports moguls behind Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal: Joel Glazer, John W Henry and Stan Kroenke respectively, are key players in the plans. They have been backed by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich at Chelsea, Abu Dhabi-backed Manchester City and Spurs, owned by British billionaire Joe Lewis, who lives in the Bahamas.
The European Super League plans also involve Spanish sides Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona and Italian clubs AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan.
American investment bank JP Morgan, which included Jeffrey Epstein and Bernie Madoff as its clients, will give the clubs £4.3 billion in loans to get the competition started.
Sponsors and investors are thought to have already been lined up by the bank to bring money into the league.
Money seems to be the key driver of the new competition, with the club owners hailing from a range of ultra-wealthy backgrounds.
Owner of Liverpool FC John W Henry and his wife Linda Pizzuti. Henry is one of the billionaire backers behind the European Super League
John W Henry, owner of Liverpool
John W Henry, the 71-year-old owner of Liverpool, has an estimated wealth of $2.7bn. Alongside Liverpool, the American financier and investor also owns baseball side Boston Red Sox and the Boston Globe newspaper.
His company, John W. Henry & Company, an investment management firm which he founded, also has stakes in Roush Fenway Racing (NASCAR) and Minor League baseball team the Salem Red Sox.
Born to bean farmer parents in Quincy, Illinois, Henry started his venture into the world of finance by selling soybean assets known as ‘futures’.
While learning his trade he tested a new type of trading technique which proved a success.
He is now worth an estimated $3billion. Henry made his money from hedge funds and his trading company before buying the Red Sox with his partner Tom Werner – the Liverpool chairman.
Under their control in 2004 the Red Sox won a first World Series in 86 years. They also ended Liverpool’s 30-year wait for a championship when they lifted the Premier League last season.
As of February 2021, Forbes estimated his net worth to be $2.8billion.
In 2016, he splashed out an eye-watering £68million on a new 215-foot super-yacht which can reportedly accommodate 12 overnight guest in a master suite, three double cabins and two twins, and up to 17 crew in separate quarters.
Among the yacht’s most noteworthy features are an ornate fireplace in the main saloon, an infinity pool located aft of the main deck, an elevator, a spa center, a gym and a helipad located on the bow.
Tom Werner, chairman of Liverpool, poses with Jurgen Klopp and John W Henry, Principal owner, with wife Linda Pizzuti
Henry is married to Linda Pizzuti, who is 30 years younger than him. His courtship of her was leaked by publications in Boston in 2009, the year they got married
Henry put his Florida mansion up for sale in 2018 for $25million before knocking off $10million a year later.
Dubbed the ‘House of Peace’, he bought the six-acre plot in 1991 for $850,000 (£646,000) so stands to make an astonishing profit despite his price-cut. It is unclear if the mansion has been sold since.
The property, based in the Le Lac neighbourhood in Boca Raton and has seven bedrooms and 14.5 bathrooms across 27,832 square feet.
On the main level, there’s a foyer with a sweeping staircase and a two-story living room. Elsewhere, there is a home cinema, a sports bar, a library with cherry wood walls, a gym, a loft with card tables, an underground wine cellar and a recording studio.
There is also a swimming pool with cabana seating, an outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven, a clay tennis court and a pair of motor courts.
Henry was briefly portrayed in the 2011 film Moneyball, which follows Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane and his quest to build a winning team in 2002.
Beane turns down an offer from Henry to become the new GM of the Red Sox but the team goes on to win the 2004 World Series by implementing many of his ideas.
Henry is married to Linda Pizzuti, who is 30 years younger than him. His courtship of her was leaked by publications in Boston in 2009, the year they got married.
Henry put his stunning Florida mansion up for sale in 2018 for $25 million before knocking off $10million a year later
Dubbed the ‘House of Peace’, he bought the six-acre plot in 1991 for $850,000 (£646,000) so stands to make an astonishing profit despite his price-cut
It is unclear if the mansion has been sold since. The property, based in the Le Lac neighbourhood in Boca Raton and has seven bedrooms and 14.5 bathrooms across 27,832 square feet
In 2016, he splashed out an eye-watering £68 million on a new 215-foot super-yacht which can reportedly accommodate 12 overnight guest in a master suite, three double cabins and two twins, and up to 17 crew in separate quarters
In one email sent to her after watching a Boston Celtics NBA match, he wrote: ‘A brief encounter-and-a-half with you gave a cool spin to this little blue planet from my vantage point.
‘I barely know you. I don’t have any illusions about capturing your heart. It’s the small things that ultimately matter. The subtle things. I am honest. I don’t play games.
‘And I see no reason not to say that I’ve been smitten by you and you’ve done me a great service. You’ve very innocently made my world brighter, better, lighter and warmer.’
Pizzuti, the daughter of two Italian migrants, has a Masters degree in real estate development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she graduated from at the age of 26.
She served as the managing director of the Boston Globe for seven years before being appointed chief executive officer of Boston Globe Media Partners last year.
Henry has been married three times, firstly to Mai Henry, though little is known about their relationship.
He was married to his second wife Peggy Sue Henry for 15 years, between 1993 and 2008. The pair have two daughters together.
Henry and his current wife Puzzti have one son together.
Stan Kroenke, owner of Arsenal
Arsenal’s Stan Kroenke has been involved with the Gunners since 2007 and took complete control three years ago.
The billionaire, 73, also owns NFL team LA Rams, NBA’s Denver Nuggets, NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and the Colorado Rapids from the MLS.
He also has the Colorado Mammoth team in the National Lacrosse League and, since 2017 has been involved in esports, owning teams in leagues for the video games Overwatch and Call of Duty.
From comparatively humble beginnings, his father was the owner of Mora Lumber Company in Mora, Missouri. Stan is said to have worked sweeping floors for his father from a young age, before helping with the bookkeeping aged 10.
However, it was his marriage which propelled him to riches. Ann Walton, who he married in 1974, is the daughter of Walmart co-founder James Bud Walton and was heir to his vast fortune.
When Bud Walton died in 1995, Kroenke inherited a stake in Walmart Stores Inc, which was worth $4.8 billion as of September 2015. Kroenke is thought to be worth £7billion.
The couple have at least two children together, Josh and Whitney Ann. His son Josh is president and governor of the Denver Nuggets basketball franchise, President and Governor of the Colorado Avalanche ice hockey franchise, and Alternate Governor for the Colorado Rapids soccer franchise. The company also co-owns Elitch Gardens Theme Park.
In 2013, he was appointed by his father to the board of Arsenal as a non-executive director. Daughter Whitney is a film producer, and philanthropist.
Kronke’s career in sports team management has not been without controversy. He got around NFL rules preventing the ownership of other sports teams by having the Avalanche and Nuggets in his wife’s name – much to the anger of his rival owners.
News of the Super League enraged fans of Arsenal – but it is not the first time Kroenke has drawn the anger of the supporters of his teams.
In 2015, he moved his Rams American Football team from St Louis, where it had been based since 1994, to California. The relocation drew anger from fans and even led to a lawsuit against the team and Kroenke from the city of St Louis.
Arsenal majority owner Stan Kroenke has been involved with the Gunners since 2007 and took complete control three years ago
Ann Walton Kroenke (second left) is the heiress to the Walmart empire and the wife of Arsenal football club owner Stan Kroenke
Kroenke’s house in Columbia, Missouri. Away from sport, Kroenke is a major landowner, with nearly 1.4 million acres of ranches across the U.S. and Canada
His relationship with Arsenal fans has also been a stormy one, with supporters of the North London club accusing him of ignoring the club by not investing money into it. Frequent protests have been carried out against him and fans have accused him of lacking ambition for a team once considered the best in the country.
Despite his involvement in sports watched by millions Kroenke prefers to avoid the spotlight and has the nickname ‘Silent Stan.’
Away from sport, Kroenke is a major landowner, with nearly 1.4 million acres of ranches across the U.S. and Canada.
Kroenke also owns around 30 million square feet of real estate, with much of it in the form of shopping plazas near Walmart stores.
In 2016, he bought a ranch of 520,000 acres in Texas, worth £520 million, which helped make him one of the top ten landowners in the US.
In 2017, he was slammed for launching an outdoor sports TV channel in the UK, which scheduled regular bloodsports and hunting programs, including the killing of elephants, lions, and other endangered African species.
Joel Glazer and the Glazer family, owners of Manchester United
Florida-based Joel Glazer is part of the family who have controlled Manchester United since 2005, when it was bought by the now late businessman Martin Glazer.
The family also own the NFL team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – the recent Super Bowl Champions.
United have not won the Premier League since 2013 but during Glazer’s tenure have lifted 12 major prizes and, according to Deloitte, in 2021 are the world’s fourth richest club behind Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich with revenue of $580m.
The Glazers’ money comes from their sporting empires and real estate across the US. They bought the Buccaneers for $192m in 1995 and it is now worth $3.1billion.
The team, led by legendary quarterback Tom Brady, beat the New England Patriots in the most recent Super Bowl.
Likewise they took charge of United, according to Forbes, for $1.4bn with the club reported to be worth more than $3bn.
The family owns First Allied Corporation, an American real-estate holding company that owns and rents out shopping malls across the United States. The company owns over 6.7 million square feet of shopping center space across 20 states, including California, Colorado, Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois, Ohio, New York and New Jersey.
Joel Glazer (left), Avram Glazer (left) and Bryan Glazer (centre), shortly after they took over Manchester United. Malcolm Glazer died in 2014
Joel Glazer, Co-chairman of Manchester United, celebrates after Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the NFL team his family owns, win the Super Bowl
After Malcolm Glazer died in May 2014, his vast $4 billion fortune was shared among his children, including Joel.
Joel studied Interdisciplinary Studies at the American University in Washington D.C before taking the reigns of his father’s company. He has a wife, Angela Glazer, as well as two daughters, Dylan and Zoey Glazer.
The Glazer family takeover was controversial with supporters who hit out at the debt the club would be forced to take on as part of the deal.
The majority of the capital used by the Glazers to purchase Manchester United came in the form of loans, the majority of which were secured against the club’s assets, incurring interest payments of over £60 million per annum.
The remainder came in the form of payment in kind loans, which were later sold to hedge funds.
Net debt at the club is at over £450 million while the Glazer family have taken hundreds of millions of pounds in dividends over the years.
Furious fans launched FC United of Manchester in 2005, which entered the North West Counties Football League and played in the sixth tier National League North from 2015 to 2019.
Since 2005, the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust has been working on a way of returning ownership of the club to supporters.
The Glazers have seen frequent protests against their ownership of the club and in 2010, a group of wealthy Manchester United fans, dubbed the ‘Red Knights’, discussed a billion-pound takeover bid.
However, the bid fell through when the Red Knights refused to meet the Glazers’ valuation of the club.
At his death in May 2014 at 85, Malcolm Glazer lived in a Palm Beach oceanfront house on the stretch of South Ocean Boulevard known to locals as Billionaires Row.
With ties to Rochester, New York, the Glazers bought the house in 1989, and Linda Glazer still uses it as her primary residence, property records show.
Roman Abramovich, Chelsea owner
Roman Abramovich was seen as the original billionaire football owner when he arrived at Chelsea in 2003 and transformed the team into a Premier League giant.
Since he took ownership of the club and invested heavily in big-name managers and players, they have won 16 major trophies, including five Premier League titles and the Champions League.
Believed to be worth around $15billion, according to Forbes, Abramovich also owns stakes in steel company Evraz and Norilsk Nickel – a Russian mining company.
A political figure in his homeland, he was governor of the Chukotka region and donated more than $2million to build schools, hospitals and infrastructure.
Roman Abramovich and Dasha Zhukova attend the Preview of the Spring Exhibition Season at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art on March 9, 2017 in Moscow. She was the Chelsea owner’s third wife
In October 1991, he married a former Russian Aeroflot stewardess, Irina Malandina. They have five children, Ilya, Arina, Sofia, Arkadiy and Anna
Roman Abramovic and his then-girlfriend Daria Dasha Zhukova in Portofino in 2013. The two would later marry before getting divorced
The 53-year-old is known to have close relationships with former Russian leader Boris Yeltsin and current president Vladimir Putin.
In fact, it is believed that Abramovich was the first person to recommend Putin for president.
According to Forbes, Abramovich’s net worth was $12.9 billion in 2019, which makes him the richest person in Israel, 10th-richest in Russia, and the 113th richest in the world.
His British property empire is worth more than £200million and includes a 15-bedroom mansion in Kensington Palace Gardens that is believed to be now worth £125 million.
The portfolio includes a flat in Cheyne Terrace, Chelsea, which was purchased for £8.75million in 2017 and includes a high-tech temperature-controlled wine cellar.
It is close to three other properties that overlook the Thames, bought for £25million, that he had once intended to knock together and turn into a £100million super-home.
However Abramovich, who made his money selling assets acquired from the state following the fall of the Soviet Union, scrapped the plan and sold up after he relented to local uproar.
Abramovich became an Israeli citizen in 2018 after his British visa expired and reportedly owns most of the properties through a holding company called Fordstam
And land registry records show that since the expiration of his visa he transferred 11 properties to the business.
The empire also includes a £22million three-storey penthouse, bought in 2018, at the Chelsea Waterfront which was completed after his visa expired and the purchase was made in his name.
Meanwhile the Kensington mansion, which cost a staggering £90million, is part of what is known as ‘billionaire’s row’.
The Russian billionaire, 54, reportedly boasts a British property empire that includes a 15-bedroom mansion in Kensington Palace Gardens (pictured) that is believed to be now worth £125 million
The empire also includes a £22million three-storey penthouse at the Chelsea Waterfront (pictured) which was completed after his visa expired and was made in his name
The desirable postcode is also home to steel magnate Lakshmi Mitta and billionaire business magnate Wang Jianlin.
Abramovich has become the world’s greatest spender on luxury yachts, and maintains a fleet of yachts dubbed ‘Abramovich’s Navy’.
His 162.5m yacht, named ‘Eclipse’, is one of the many stunning gems within his fortune. It can accomodate 36 guests in 18 cabins and boasts a cinema, conference facilities, children’s playroom, beauty salon, dance floor, two swimming pools, sauna and even a missile defence system.
Abramovich has begun building a ‘megamansion’ in New York, having purchased four Upper East Side townhouses in Manhattan for $74 million. The combined property will be 19,400 square feet, and it is estimated that renovation costs will be an additional $100 million.
Russia’s most prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny, 44, has called for the freezing of the Chelsea football club owner’s assets over his poisoning and arrest.
Abramovich has been married and divorced three times. In December 1987, following a brief stint in the Soviet Army, he married Olga Yurevna Lysova. They divorced in 1990.
In October 1991, he married a former Russian Aeroflot stewardess, Irina Malandina. They have five children, Ilya, Arina, Sofia, Arkadiy and Anna. Abramovich married Dasha Zhukova, daughter of a prominent Russian oligarch, Alexander Zhukov in 2008, and they have two children, a son, Aaron Alexander, and a daughter, Leah Lou.
In August 2017, the couple announced that they would separate and their divorce was finalised in 2018
Sheik Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, owner of Manchester City
The money arrived at Manchester City in 2008 and with Sheikh Mansour, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, pulling the purse strings, they never looked back.
Cash was quickly pumped into every area – academy, training ground, playing staff, coaching – and City quickly caught up with, and overtook their neighbours and rivals Manchester United.
They have won four Premier Leagues in that time, look set for a fifth this season and are in the semi-final of the Champions League.
Manchester city owner Sheikh Mansour is thought to be another key player in the European Super League proposal
Sheikh Mansour built a lavish palace and compound on the highest spot of the Seychelles, La Misere, main island, on the site of a former US tracking station
Sheikh Mansour is thought to own Ascot Place, a Grade II-listed 18th century pile at Winkfield, Berks, on the edge of Windsor Great Park
The High Court heard that the Sheikh’s assets have included about 140 properties in the most affluent areas of London, including Mayfair, Marylebone, Knightsbridge and Kensington (pictured is one of the properties he owns in Kensington)
The Sheikh’s royal yacht, though such is the scale of the Azzam that calling it a yacht barely does it justice. At 590ft it is the largest private ocean-going yacht in the world
The Abu Dhabi group is the majority owner of the City Football Group which boasts Man City as their flagship team. They also have stakes in teams in the United States, Australia, India, Japan, Spain, Uruguay, China, Belgium and France.
Sheikh Mansour is the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, minister of presidential affairs and member of the royal family of Abu Dhabi. He is the half brother of the current President of UAE, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Mansour also owns stakes in a number of business ventures, including Virgin Galactic and Sky News Arabia. Mansour is the owner of the yacht Topaz, which is worth around £400 million.
He gave control of Manchester City over to Khaldoon Al Mubarak, one of the royal family’s most trusted advisers.
Khaldoon’s father was the former UAE diplomat and ambassador to France, Khalifa Ahmed Abdulaziz Al-Mubarak, who was assassinated in Paris in 1984.
Manchester City has faced widespread condemnation for its Abu Dhabi backing. Though the club has denied being funded by the UAE government directly, Sheikh Mansour retains control of the club.
A 2017-18 report Amnesty condemned the UAE for unfair trials, lack of freedom of expression, a failure to investigate allegations of torture, discrimination against women and the abuse of migrant workers.
JOE LEWIS, OWNER OF TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
Tottenham Hotspur owner Joe Lewis, 84, is worth around £4billion, according to last year’s Times Rich List.
Born in London he entered the family catering business at 15 but in the 1980s moved into currency trading. He is the major investor in Tavistock Group which owns more than 200 companies in 15 countries.
The group formerly owned stakes in Scottish football team Rangers and Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic.
Lewis lives in the Bahamas as a tax exile. Lewis is also the largest shareholder in the British pub group Mitchells & Butlers.
He has a variety of other investments, including luxury club resorts, restaurants, hotels and an Australian agriculture firm.
Lewis also owns the Lake Nona development near Orlando, one of the fastest growing communities in the USA.
The Tottenham owner’s art collection is estimated to be worth $1 billion and includes works by Picasso, Matisse, Lucian Freud, and sculptor Henry Moore.
Lewis bought Francis Bacon’s Triptych 1974–1977 in 2008 for £26.3 million, then a record for postwar artwork bought in Europe.
In November 2018 Lewis sold his ‘Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)’ by David Hockney in Christie’s salesroom for $90.3 million.
Tottenham owner Joe Lewis (left) watched his team play. He is worth around £4billion, according to last year’s Times Rich List
Aviva, a luxury yacht belonging to billionaire Tottenham Hotspur owner Joe Lewis, is pictured moored by Butler’s Wharf in London
JP Morgan, US firm bankrolling the super league
JP Morgan was among the group of big American investment banks blamed for triggering the financial crisis just over a decade ago – and was eventually ordered to pay a then-record $13 billion fine – about £10 billion – in 2013 for misleading investors in the years leading up to the meltdown.
Coincidentally, 2013 was also the year the bank finally parted company with one of its most notorious clients, paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein.
Bank insiders have claimed that concerns were raised about Epstein – a friend of Prince Andrew – after the financier was charged with sex crimes and pleaded guilty to soliciting a minor for prostitution in 2008. Yet he remained a JP Morgan client for another five years.
One theory of why the disgraced American – who died in jail last year – was kept on in the face of increasingly lurid allegations was his value to JP Morgan.
Epstein is said to have arranged business introductions for one of his contacts at the bank, Jes Staley, the head of private banking who would later become chief executive of Barclays bank in Britain.
US Investment bank JP Morgan has loaned the clubs involved in the super league £4.3 billion to get it underway as soon as possible
The Mail on Sunday revealed in 2015 that Epstein lobbied for Staley to secure the top job at Barclays after 34 years at JP Morgan.
Staley has said he had no knowledge of Epstein’s illegal activities and Barclays has denied its directors were approached by Epstein.
Among JP Morgan’s other notable former clients is Bernie Madoff – the fraudster behind the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.
According to court documents made public in 2011, senior JP Morgan executives had started to doubt the legitimacy of Madoff’s investment activities but continued to do business with him.
JP Morgan eventually paid a $2.5 billion fine for failing for two decades to report Madoff’s suspicious dealings. He was jailed for stealing from wealthy investors – including a number of celebrities – over more than 20 years. Losses from the scheme are said to have hit $17 billion.
In 2013 the bank finally parted company with one of its most notorious clients, paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein (pictured)
JP Morgan admitted it could have done a better job of handling concerns about Madoff’s activities but said no employee knowingly assisted with the fraud.
At the helm of the bank through the good times and the bad has been highly regarded chief executive Jamie Dimon.
Since taking the top job in 2005 he has become known as The King of Wall Street, raking in $298.8 million in pay and perks.
The 63-year-old became the best-paid banking chief for a fifth year in a row by scooping more than £24 million.
He is credited with steering JP Morgan through the financial crisis to become the most profitable bank in the US today.
Nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’ at private school in New York – ostensibly for his prowess on the sports field – he has an MBA from Harvard, where he met his wife, Judy.
They married in 1983 and have three grown-up daughters – Julia, Laura and Kara.
It’s fair to say Dimon hasn’t struggled to find ways to spend the wealth he has accrued since his university days. As well as a home on Park Avenue, one of New York’s most prestigious addresses, he and Judy escape in the summer months to their 34-acre country home about an hour’s drive north from central Manhattan.
The 9,600 sq ft 1930s mansion nestles in woodland near the town of Bedford, where other wealthy homeowners include former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and actor Michael Douglas. Dimon bought the summer retreat in 2007 for a reported $17 million.
His style of management is said to be fierce. It has been claimed he likes to punch the air when he raises his voice to berate staff and carries a crumpled piece of paper containing the names of ‘the people who owe me stuff’.
His tight grip on JP Morgan has not stopped the bank coughing up more than $31 billion in regulatory fines since the 2008 crisis for offences ranging from manipulating energy markets to accusations of racial discrimination.
Among JP Morgan’s other notable former clients is Bernie Madoff – the fraudster behind the biggest Ponzi scheme in history
In January 2017, JP Morgan agreed a $55 million settlement over allegations that it charged black and Hispanic mortgage borrowers higher rates than its white customers.
It denied the accusations, made by the US Justice Department, but agreed to settle.
JP Morgan has also issued a grovelling apology and paid millions of dollars in reparations for historic links to the slave trade.
In 2005, it admitted that two Louisiana banks that were later absorbed into the company once held 13,000 slaves as collateral and owned 1,250 slaves.
JP Morgan’s London office reported a $2billion trading loss in 2012 that was traced to big bets taken by a group of traders led by Bruno Iksil, known as the London Whale.
Florentino Perez, president of Real Madrid
Unlike many of their European rivals, reigning LaLiga champions Real Madrid are still fan-owned with around 90,000 fan investors, known as Socios, owning stakes.
Current president Florentino Perez made his fortune in civil engineering and construction and will be the first chairman of the European Super League.
Current Real Madrid president Florentino Perez made his fortune in civil engineering and construction and will be the first chairman of the European Super League
A former politician, Perez’s background has been the vice-president of Grupo ACS since the company was formed in 1997, and is also the majority owner with 12.8 per cent of the shares in his name.
Perez actually failed in his first attempt to take control of operations in Madrid, failing with a presidential bid in 1995 as he lost to Ramon Mendoza, who would soon depart.
Come 2000, Perez sought to take advantage of Real’s poor financial standing and promised a series of world class signings – including Barcelona’s Luis Figo – during his campaign.
He scooped 94.2 per cent of the vote and then delivered on his promise by acquiring Figo from their greatest rival for a then world record fee.
Real are worth $3.6 billion according to Forbes, with Perez’s worth standing at $2 billion (£1.53m)
Andrea Agnelli, chairman of Juventus
Juventus have been majority-owned, almost continuously, by the Agnelli family since 1923.
The family own around two thirds of the Turin team, with US fund manager Lindsell Train owning around 11 per cent and the rest owned by other investors in the stock market-listed business.
In February, Juventus said it had suffered a loss of 113.7million euros (£98million) and expected to lose more money in the second half of the season amid coronavirus restrictions.
The club’s share price jumped by more than 14 per cent on Monday morning as investors welcomed news of the Super League.
The Agnelli family are descendants of Italian royalty and own the Fiat conglomerate with several car brands including Ferrari under their control.
Juventus have been majority-owned, almost continuously, by the Agnelli family since 1923. The family own around two thirds of the Turin team, with US fund manager Lindsell Train owning around 11 per cent
The family has sometimes been described in the English-speaking world as ‘the Kennedys of Italy’ for their role in the country’s contemporary history and their activity of patronage in modern art and in sports.
As of 2020, the extended Agnelli family comprised about two hundred members.
Most members of the family are stakeholders in privately owned Giovanni Agnelli B.V., which in turn has a controlling stake in the publicly listed holding company Exor.
In 2019. Exor recorded revenues of $144 billion, making it the 28th largest group in the world by revenue.
It has a history of investments running over a century, which notably include global reinsurer PartnerRe and the international newspaper The Economist, as well as their football and motor assets.
Elliot Management, hedge fund owners of AC Milan
Elliott Management, a $42billion hedge fund, has complete control of AC Milan after taking over the club in 2018 and has invested more than $600million.
Elliott has said it will invest another $1.2billion to finance a new stadium to replace the San Siro in a build which has placed further pressure on club finances.
The firm has invested in eBay, AT&T, SoftBank, SAP and Twitter since 2019.
Elliott, founded by billionaire Paul Singer, was famous for buying and selling small companies and its track record gave Singer a reputation among CEOs and board members as the world’s most feared investor.
Former AthenaHealth CEO Jonathan Bush, whose company was targeted by Elliott in 2017, described doing research on Elliott as ‘googling this thing on your arm and it says, ‘You’re going to die.’
The New Yorker called Singer a ‘doomsday investor,’ highlighting a series of unflattering tactics taken by his company.
In 1996, Singer began using the strategy of purchasing sovereign debt from nations in or near default, such as Argentina and Peru through his NML Capital Limited.
He did the same to the Republic of the Congo through Kensington International Inc.
Singer’s practice of purchasing debt from companies and sovereign states and pursuing full payment through the courts has led to criticism.
However, he described his tactic as ‘a fight against charlatans who refuse to play by the market’s rules’, and supporters of the practice have said it ‘help keep kleptocratic governments in check.’
In 2020 Singer ranked 222 on the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, 538 among the world’s billionaires, and the 19th highest earning hedge fund manager.
Suning, the Chinese firm that owns Inter Milan
City rivals Inter are in a far more uncertain position amid reports that Chinese owner Suning is in talks with private equity investors over a sale of the club.
In February, Suning confirmed that reigning Chinese Super League champions Jiangsu FC, which it also owns, would fold amid financial trouble.
Last month, it was reported that US fund Fortress was in talks over a takeover for Inter but no deal has yet been confirmed.
Confirmation that Inter would be included in any Super League could bump up the valuation of the Serie A club.
Suning is one of the largest non-government retailers in China.
The company has more than 1600 stores covering over 700 cities of China and Japan and its e-commerce platform, Suning.com ranks among top three Chinese B2C companies.
The company works in categories that include physical merchandise, such as home appliances, 3C products, books, general merchandise, household commodities, cosmetics and baby care products, content products and service merchandise.
It was listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange in 2004.
Barcelona, fan owned
Barcelona are another of LaLiga’s four member-owned clubs, having been set up under the model in 1899. Over 144,000 fans pay membership every year and have shareholder votes on major decisions.
Last month, Joan Laporta was elected for a second spell as club president.
Miguel Angel Gil Marin, majority owner of Athletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid are majority-owned by Spanish millionaire Miguel Angel Gil Marin, who first became chief executive at the club in 1993 after investment from his father.
Mr Gil Marin, who made his from horse and bull breeding, currently owns a stake of around 52 per cent.
Israeli billionaire Idan Ofer owns around a third of the club after buying out Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group in 2018.