LeBron James gets stake in Liverpool

Updated: April 7, 2011, 12:30 PM ET
ESPNBoston.com

MIAMI -- LeBron James is getting into the soccer business, aligning with the owners of the Boston Red Sox.

Fenway Sports Management -- the sister company of the Red Sox -- said Wednesday it has signed James and the management company he helped create, LRMR, to a long-term deal to secure marketing and sponsorship opportunities. As part of the deal, James obtained a piece of Liverpool FC, one of the world's most famed soccer teams and a longtime marquee franchise in the English Premier League.

"I can't even explain the level of excitement that we have right now," James' manager and LRMR CEO Maverick Carter told The Associated Press. "As far as my business career goes, it's one of the most exciting times. And the opportunity for growth for us is huge. The guys at FSM understand it too and they probably see it even more than we do."

James
James

The deal came together quickly, but Carter and James have been familiar with FSM owners John Henry and Tom Werner for some time. Their relationship was born, in part, through mutual acquaintances with Berkshire Hathaway -- billionaire Warren Buffett's company.

And that relationship between James and the Red Sox owners presents a bit of irony -- after all, James is a devout New York Yankees fan.

"It's strictly business. ... It's very humbling," James said.

FSM is owned by Fenway Sports Group, the parent company of the Red Sox and Liverpool FC and a co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing. James has had involvement with NASCAR previously, albeit on a somewhat limited basis.

FSM handles the marketing for the Red Sox, Liverpool and Roush Fenway Racing, and now it will handle James, too.

"That's the great thing about sports: It brings people together," Carter said. "And this is about business."

FSM president Sam Kennedy said Wednesday that the group is not looking to get into representing individual athletes, but the chance to work with a blue-chip brand such as James was too good to pass up.

"What FSM does for Roush Fenway, Liverpool and the Red Sox, we will now do for LeBron James," Kennedy said. "We will aggressively pursue business opportunities for him."

James has pursued marketing opportunities across the globe before, especially in Asia and Europe -- obviously, two key markets for Liverpool as well.

James stressed that the relationship is a partnership, one brand helping another, and that LRMR's operations aren't being essentially taken over by FSM.

"There are very few athletes who can match his global reach, appeal and iconic status," said Werner, the Red Sox chairman. "We are very excited that LeBron will be part of the Liverpool FC family. LeBron and Liverpool each has a powerful presence internationally."

The agreement was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

"We're not interested in talent or athlete representation but we think he is one of the most remarkable athletes of his time," Werner told the Journal on Tuesday. "We believe we can open doors for LeBron and LeBron can open doors for us."

Werner and Henry's Fenway Sports Group purchased Liverpool for $488 million.

"Without purchasing Liverpool, we never would have been able to have this conversation," Werner told the Journal.

Liverpool is valued as one of the most valuable soccer franchises in the world and has won 18 top division championships in its storied history.

"Eighteen championships," the 26-year-old James told the Journal. "I see myself trying to do the same things they have."

The deal being announced was part of a big day for James. Wednesday also marked the formal launch of his cartoon series on YouTube, "The LeBrons."

There was also a basketball game -- James and the Heat lost to the Milwaukee Bucks. And that was the NBA's two-time reigning MVP's top priority, even with all the news happening around him.

"It just felt right," Carter said. "It just felt like a good day for it all to happen."

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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