FSG and LeBron James may have to fight Floyd Mayweather over next move

Former boxer Mayweather also wants to land an NBA team in same city as Liverpool owners FSG and James

Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group want to acquire a team to play in the NBA, that much has already been established.

The Reds owners – whose overall empire that includes Liverpool, the Boston Red Sox and the Pittsburgh Penguins, among others, surpassed the $10bn mark earlier this year – have plans to further grow the portfolio, with a team in the world’s foremost basketball competition, the NBA, right at the top of their agenda.

FSG had reportedly looked at league teams last year, including the Minnesota Timberwolves, but with the NBA likely to expand from 32 teams to 34 in the not too distant future, with franchises in Seattle and Las Vegas set to be up for grabs for around the $2.5bn mark, the Reds owners are expected to keep their powder dry until that opportunity presents itself.

The ECHO understands that the desire of FSG to land a team in Vegas and have basketball icon and FSG partner LeBron James front the operation when he decides to call time on his stellar career on the hardwood. It has long been James’ wish that he wanted to own an NBA team and having accreted his ownership of Liverpool into one per cent of FSG last March when the $750m RedBird Capital Partners investment into FSG was concluded, the plan has become clearer.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver all but ruled out any movements on expanding to 34 teams before 2024 when he addressed reporters last month, although he did concede that it was coming down the tracks and that Seattle and Las Vegas would make good locations for any new teams.

But there is likely to be more than just FSG and James ready to talk numbers when a deal is there to be done, especially given Las Vegas’ burgeoning reputation as a sports mecca, with the NFL and NHL both landing teams there in the last two years, while the city will host a Formula One race on the calendar from next season as more and more capital pours into the area to capitalise on the boom that it is experiencing in trying to make itself a strong sporting market, something that it traditionally has been unable to do.

Retired boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr, whose glittering career in the ring saw him become synonymous with bright lights of Las Vegas, has his eyes on acquiring an NBA team too, with Vegas in his sights.

Mayweather Jr, 45, whose fortune is valued at around $500m, although he has claimed it to be more than double that, already owns a NASCAR Cup Series team, The Money Team Racing, and has aspirations to continue to add to his sporting portfolio as he seeks to build his own empire away from the ring.

“I’ve been talking to certain individuals for the last six months,” Mayweather told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “That’s something I’ve been working on behind the scenes, but I’ve never came out and publicly talked about that with the media. Me and my team have been working behind the scenes with the NBA. I can’t say exactly where, but I’m working on getting a team. (I’m) going to have a team, whether it’s in Vegas or not in Vegas.”

“I’ve been working on that for a good while now. I’ve been working behind the scenes. I didn’t want to bring it out until it was engraved in stone.”

Las Vegas has plenty of appeal to investors right now.

For those, like FSG, who are looking at acquiring at NBA expansion team in the city there is the carrot of a $3bn entertainment complex development that is being led by Tim Lieweke’s Oak View Group, with the development set to include a state of the art, ‘NBA ready’ 20,000 seater arena ready for any new tenants.

In reality, Mayweather would need partners and significant capital behind any bid for the expansion team, something FSG and their investment partners already provide James. Allied with FSG’s position in US sports as a firm that delivers growth sustainably and with a track record of success, not to mention the leverage that James brings to the situation, it could well be the first KO of Mayweather’s career.

James is someone who, alongside FSG, is aiming to be the one to roll the dice and win big in Vegas.

Speaking on The Shop, a show produced by James and business partner Maverick Carter’s SpringHill Company, which took investment from FSG last year, the 37-year-old Los Angeles Lakers star said: “I want to own a team. I want to buy a team, for sure. I want the team in Vegas.”

It is, however, a process that may take some time. Owners of the NBA’s current 32 teams would have to vote on any proposals to expand and would have to feel that they have been suitably compensated financially through the sale of new franchises given that they would have to share more of the media rights and commercial revenues with even more teams. With a potential $4.5bn to be raised between the two new teams, though, agreement is likely to arrive.

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