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Thursday, April 22, 2010

QPR Report Thursday: Ten Richest Soccer Billionaire Owners - #1 QPR's Lakshmi Mittal & #10. QPR's Bernie Ecclestone

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FORBES Magazine - Soccer Valuations 2010 Soccer's Billionaires
Michael K. Ozanian and Peter J. Schwartz, 04.21.10,

Most had a better year than their teams.
- The world's 10 richest soccer club owners grew a lot richer over the past year. But their escalating wealth had little to do with the finances of their soccer clubs. The $36 billion gain in their total net worth--without a single billionaire declining--was driven largely by higher commodity prices and a sharp rebound in global stock markets.
- The top soccer billionaire, India's Lakshmi Mittal, is a prime example. His net worth increased $9.4 billion to $28.7 billion on our March 29, 2010, billionaires ranking. Mittal owns 20% of London's Queen's Park Rangers, a controversy-engulfed club that has posted an aggregate operating loss of $25 million over past five seasons on revenues of $71 million playing in England's second-tier Coca-Cola ( KO - news - people ) Football League Championship. The loss is chump change for Mittal, whose steel producer ArcelorMittal has a market value of $65 billion and a share price that's up 47% during the past 12 months.
- Other winners from the commodities boom include Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov. Abramovich made his money in oil and now has it heavily invested in steel. He owns Chelsea, the world's ninth most valuable soccer club. Chelsea is worth $646 million but had the biggest operating loss of the top world's top 20 soccer clubs--$73 million--during the 2008-09 season. But Abramovich's net worth rose $2.7 billion to $11.2 billion as his investments in commodities have paid off big in the past year. Usmanov became rich through steel and iron ore mines. The Russian saw his net worth go up $5.6 billion, to $7.2 billion, over the past year. Usmanov is now the second largest shareholder in Arsenal, at 26% behind fellow billionaire American property developer and sports investor E. Stanley Kroenke. Arsenal is now worth $1.18 billion, the third-most of any soccer club in the world, and earned $102 million last season.
- U.S. billionaires continue to believe in Major League Soccer. Paul Allen's wealth increased $3 billion, to $13.5 billion. Allen paid $30 million for the expansion Seattle Sounders and in its inaugural 2009 season the Sounders sold the most tickets in MLS. The Microsoft ( MSFT - news - people ) cofounder has the bulk of his investments in shares of the software company, whose stock price jumped 60% the past year.
- Philip Anschutz, one of the founders of MLS, has investments in two U.S. soccer clubs as well as one in Sweden. Anschutz grabbed headlines when he signed David Beckham three years ago to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy. Although Beckham was injured most of the time and did not provide much on the pitch, he created a lot of press for the league and was responsible for boosting attendance wherever the Galaxy played. Anschutz lost big on real estate when the bubble crashed in 2008 but came back strong last year as his net worth increased $1 billon, to $6 billion.

Our list of soccer billionaire owners is plagued by its share of scandals, the most publicized of which surround Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The allegedly mad bedder of women enjoyed a $2.5 billion increase in his fortune, to $9 billion. Berlusconi, a passable amateur player in his youth, owns three analogue television channels, various digital television channels, as well as some of the larger-circulation national news magazines. Together these account for nearly half the Italian market. The married Berlusconi, who has denied sex with escorts, controls A.C. Milan, the world's seventh most valued soccer club at $800 million. The club won the Champions League in 2007 and posted operating income of $41 million in during the 2008-09 season.
- [b]The other soccer club owner hammered in the press the past year is Bernard Ecclestone, the president and chief executive of Formula One motor racing. Ecclestone has been criticized for battling racing team owners as sponsors have fled the world's largest and most lucrative open wheel auto racing circuit. Ecclestone and fellow Formula One executive Flavio Briatore bought the soccer club three years ago for $23 million. But in 2008 Briatore, who stepped down as chairman of the Queen's Park Rangers this past February, was banned from Formula One for more than three years for attempting to fix the Singapore Grand Prix. Ecclestone's net worth rose $300 million, to $4 billion[/b].
- And before you ask, the billionaire owners of the world's most valuable soccer club, Manchester Untied, don't make the list of the 10 richest club owners. We estimate the Glazer family's fortune to be $2.4 billion, 60% of Eccelstone's. But it tops that of Florentino Perez, president of the second most valuable club, Read Madrid, which we put at $1.9 billion.

[b]In Pictures: Soccer's Billionaires [/b]
[b]#1. Lakshmi Mittal[/b]
Net worth: $28.7 billion, up $9.4 billion.
Team: Queen's Park Rangers
The Indian-born U.K. resident runs ArceloMittal, the world's largest steel company, with sales of $65 billion during the past 12 months. Mittal, who bought 20% ownership in the Queen's Park Rangers in late 2007, was rumored to be looking to acquire the 54% stake of the team owned by former chairman and part-owner Flavio Briatore, who resigned from his post this past February. Mittel may want to think twice about upping his ownership: Queen's Park has stumbled on the pitch amid a constant turnover of managers and has posted an operating loss each season since 2005

[b]10. Bernard Ecclestone[/b]
Net worth: $4 billion, up $300 million.
Queen's Park Rangers
Ecclestone, the president and chief executive of Formula One, has seemingly had to weather one media firestorm after another in recent years, including allegations of sexism, anti-Semitism and most recently an attempted auto race-fixing scandal. Still, he averted catastrophe last year by avoiding a split in Formula One after prominent teams like Ferrari threatened to start their own circuit. Ecclestone's fortune grew 8% last year, while his soccer club finished 11th in the 24-team Football League Championship, England's second-tier of competition.

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