Billionaires are buying sports teams for different reasons than they used to

  • A new report by UBS and PwC found the total wealth of the world’s billionaires grew by 17% in 2016 to $US6 trillion.
  • Billionaires, according to the report, are “turning their attention to sports.”
  • John Matthews, coauthor of the report, told Business Insider that owning a sports team is not just an ego play for billionaires.

Billionaire wealth grew by 17% to $US6 trillion, according to a report released Thursday by $US3 trillion money manager UBS and consultancy PwC.

And a chunk of that money is going into sports.

Billionaires, according to the wide-ranging report, are looking to leave their mark on history and are ramping up their philanthropy efforts and patronage of the arts and sport.

“Billionaires are turning their attention to sports,” the report said. “As the price tags on sports clubs appreciate, often it’s only billionaires who have the financial firepower to buy

them and make the necessary follow-on investments.”

In Asia, for instance, the uber wealthy are driving the growth of soccer with billionaire’s like Alibaba’s Jack Ma funding new training schools.

Wealthy people, of course, have always been patrons of sports teams and clubs, but the reason why they are backing sports has changed, according to John Matthews, one of the reports coauthors. He told Business Insider that owning a sports franchise used to be an ego play, and he often advised his billionaire clients against buying teams.

“I would tell my clients the fastest way to become a millionaire is to become a billionaire and then buy a sports team,” he said.

Today the motivation behind owning a team is more pragmatic. As such, Matthews thinks it makes good sense for some billionaires to buy a team. For instance, owning a sports team can help billionaires connect with communities they might have business interests in.

“Yet owning a sports club is more than a prestige project or business venture,” the report said. “In the US and to a certain extent in Europe, this is a chance to promote your community, to establish a legacy as the person who took the community’s sports club to great success.”

Owning a team can also open the door to other business opportunities.

“One billionaire told us that you do not really buy sports clubs for financial returns,” the report said. “Instead it opens the door to amazing people — you sit at the table with ‘stars, sheikhs, famous businessmen and regular guys from around the world, all in the same room, all talking only about the ball.'”

The report said 109 billionaires own the top 140 sports brands. The average age of these tycoons is 68. Here’s an overview of the sports teams owned by billionaires:

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