JOHN HENRY: Winning With Losers

john henry

By 2002, John Henry was already wealthy enough to have owned part of the New York Yankees and all of the Florida Marlins.

But the Illinois-born businessman wanted more.

The self-made billionaire founder of John W. Henry & Company partnered with Tom Werner and The New York Times Company to purchase the Boston Red Sox, a storied franchise with a rapid fanbase that was desperate for a championship.

Two years later, the Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals — the team Henry supported as a child growing up in Illinois — and won their first World Series since 1918. The Boston club would prevail again in 2007, giving Red Sox Nation more to celebrate in three years than they had had in almost a century.

While Henry had little to do with the actual play on the field, he and his partners’ purchase revitalized the franchise with their cash. Specifically, they turned Fenway Park — a small, dilapidated stadium that the previous ownership group planned to replace — into a money-minting machine by adding seats and improving the facility while retaining the landmark’s charm. The group also targeted the Sox’s widespread legion of supporters, almost reaching a saturation point with their marketing efforts.

Before Henry unleashed a legion of pink Sox hats on the world, however, he was making millions in the market. The futures trader developed a trend following system that utilized mechanical and mathematical models. He founded John W. Henry & Company, Inc. in 1981, which is still in existence today.

With some of his newfound wealth, Henry jumped into sports, purchasing the Tucson Toros Triple A team before attempting to buy the Orlando Magic in 1990. A year later, he bought into the New York Yankees, but sold before buying the Florida Marlins outright in 1999. He parted ways with the Florida club when he, Werner, and the NYT Co. joined forces to acquire the Red Sox.

While his squad was competing for the World Series, Henry was enjoying his life as a money man. In 2006, Boston Magazine reported he gave guests on his $34-million, 164-foot yacht red sox to wear after they removed their shoes in order to protect the boat’s teak deck.

john henry

Boats are nice, but Henry and his group were not done purchasing sports franchises.

In October 2010, Fenway Sports Group — as the venture was renamed — bought Liverpool for $477 million.

If the English Premier League team looks like the Red Sox, that’s well, because it should. The Wall Street Journal on the pair: “Both are storied franchises in cold northern cities with large Irish enclaves. The fans of both teams are obsessive, rabidly loyal and fatalistic. Both play in celebrated but revenue-limited stadiums that are more than 90 years old.”

The Reds — as the EPL squad is known — have not won a league title since 1990. They do, however, boast a huge opportunity for revenue, even after previous owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett ran the club into the ground financially.

Bring a title to Anfield would further establish the credibility of Henry and FSG… and make them millions.  

The biggest coup is not the Sox or Liverpool. It’s LeBron.

As in LeBron James, the global icon.

In April, the two sides agreed to give the Miami Heat superstar a minority stake in the soccer team in exchange for being James’ exclusive worldwide marketing representatives. As the NBA looks to expand internationally, the move could be this visionary’s most lucrative of all.