Bournemouth owner Bill Foley is close to adding another club to his football portfolio with the American due to be named as the preferred bidder for the Australian Professional Leagues (APL) expansion franchise in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland.
Foley, 78, is the managing partner of Black Knight Football Club, the group of investors who bought Bournemouth last December and then invested in French side Lorient a month later.
The APL announced its plan to add new A-Leagues teams in Auckland and Australian capital Canberra earlier this year, with the two franchises joining the men’s and women’s divisions next year. This would take the number of teams from 12 to 14, with Auckland joining Wellington as New Zealand’s A-Leagues outposts.
Foley, who made his fortune in insurance, knows New Zealand well, as his successful wine-making business Foley Family Wines owns six vineyards in the country, while Foley Hospitality owns 10 bars and restaurants there, too. Another Foley company owns a luxury country estate near Wellington.
He will now have a period of exclusivity to close the purchase of another New Zealand asset.
News of Foley’s latest purchase comes two weeks after Chicago-based billionaires the Ryan family had bought a minority stake in Black Knight, joining Hollywood star Michael B. Jordan as one of Foley’s football partners. The Ryans also own a minority stake in the National Football League’s Chicago Bears.
Auckland’s A-Leagues franchise will not be the first expansion team Foley has ever bought, either, as he brought the National Hockey League to Las Vegas in 2017 when he launched the Vegas Golden Knights. They reached the Stanley Cup finals in their season and won the title this year.
Foley was a late entrant to the race for the Auckland franchise, though, as the early running was made by Marc Mitchell, a New Zealand-based American lawyer and entrepreneur. Mitchell is a minority investor in Auckland’s New Zealand Breakers, a basketball team that competes in Australia’s National Basketball League.
Foley’s greater financial muscle won the day, though, and Black Knight is still looking for more clubs to fill out its multi-club vision. Belgium, Brazil and Scotland are among the countries where Foley and co. might invest next.
Speaking to The Athletic in May, Foley explained why he does not mind saying that Bournemouth are at the top of the Black Knight tree, an admission that has caused some annoyance in France.
“I’m just being honest,” he said. “Many players in Ligue 1 want to move to the Premier League, and we want to give them that opportunity.
“We want Lorient to be very good and if they can play in Europe, we would want them to do that. We don’t want (Lorient president) Loic (Fery) to sell all of his best players. We want him to have the opportunity of reaching Europe.
“But if a player wants to move on, I don’t want him to move to Liverpool or Arsenal — I want him to move to us.”
While Foley’s multi-club model is taking shape, there are growing concerns about the mothership’s Premier League status. Bournemouth are 19th in the table and without a win in the league this season.
Their next league game is against Wolves on October 21, when Gary O’Neil returns to the Vitality Stadium for the first time since Bournemouth replaced him as manager with former Rayo Vallecano boss Andoni Iraola. O’Neil’s Wolves are currently five points and five places better off than Bournemouth in the table.
Bournemouth owner Bill Foley: ‘I want this team to play in Europe’
(Photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)