The head of a major American investment bank has cashed-up clients ready to buy Australian franchises – and even entire sporting leagues – that may not otherwise survive the coronavirus shutdown.
Andrew Kline is the founder and managing director of Park Lane, a firm that specialises in helping high net-worth individuals become owners of sporting franchises. The former St Louis Rams NFL draftee has facilitated deals for his clients to buy and sell teams across all the major American sporting leagues, including the National Basketball Association, National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.
Kline has an intimate knowledge of the local sporting landscape, having previously lived in Australia. He also has another local link, as a close friend of Bradley Charles Stubbs, in an indication the “coach whisperer” is making an impression not only on the sporting world, but also the big end of town.
With several Australian teams and sporting codes teetering on the brink due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kline revealed he was lining up prospective owners ready to make a play for local licenses.
“We have clients who are very interested in Australia; not just purchasing a team, but an entire league,” Kline told the Sun-Herald. “It’s a great market that we believe in. We feel like there will be not just heavy Australian investment back in the country, but heavy American investment back in the country.
“As a firm, we’re very focused on picking different opportunities up. I can’t say too much, but we always keep a close eye on Australia. We were looking at Australian assets before COVID hit and we were interested. Now that there has been some steam taken out of the market, we are even more interested.
“While things are priced fairly well, we will take a closer look.”
Due to confidentiality arrangements, Kline did not want to disclose the identity of his clients or the properties they are targeting. However, the Sun-Herald understands the four football codes – NRL, AFL, A-League and rugby union – are on the radar. While some clients are content to purchase a single team, others have the means and desire to buy out an entire sporting code.
“The answer is yes on both,” Kline said. “I can’t be that defined, but there are opportunities with all of your different sporting teams and leagues.
“I guarantee there are teams that are run perfectly and there are teams that can be run much better. It’s not like America has all the answers, that’s not how it is. Every league and every industry, you have the people who know what they are doing and run a tight ship and you have people who don’t.
There will be phoenixes that rise from the ashes. People will do very, very well because of this happening.Founder and managing director of Park Lane Andrew Kline
“That’s where you find the opportunity. I would say right now, prices could get pressed and it’s just a no-brainer to buy.
“The thing about sport is we have some clients who lose $10 million, $20 million, $30 million, $40 million, $50 million on owning a sports team. But what they get … in intangible stuff in being that owner is well worth it.
“You can turn it into a real profit centre, too, for a long time.
“There are opportunities globally. This is a tough thing that’s happened, but there will be phoenixes that rise from the ashes. People will do very, very well because of this happening.
“We feel strongly the economy will recover and life will go on.”
Kline drew some parallels between the economic conditions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the global financial crisis in 2008, when a number of his clients were able to pick up sporting teams relatively cheaply.
“We have been doing this for so long and we have helped people buy and sell teams in all of our major leagues out here – the NFL, NHL, NBA, Major League Baseball, everything.
“They are big [deals] within industry, but they are small within the world of business. We have a client who is a biotech engineer who is a sports team owner. His biotech company is more valuable than the Dallas Cowboys, which I would say is the most valuable franchise in the US.
“And he’s got an embryo biotech company which is worth more than that.
“In the world of sport we have done some big deals, but in the world of business, sports deals are [relatively minor] – I would call them $3 billion and below type deals.
“They are just very public in nature and people are passionate about it because a lot of people worship those teams.”
Kline met Stubbs through a mutual friend, Australian NFL pioneer Colin Scotts, and the pair are in regular contact.
“In my first phone call with Brad, I invited him to the US,” Kline said. “He showed up a week later, he and his family stayed at my beach house at Malibu. It’s interesting, within a minute of meeting him, I invited him out and he came out. We’ve been together ever since, he’s a great guy.”
Story: The Sydney Morning Herald