Robert Kraft is best known for his ownership of the New England Patriots. However, you don’t get as much money as him by putting all your eggs in one basket. Kraft is a mogul in the Boston sports scene, owning several teams in different leagues located in the area. His latest endeavor will raise a few eyebrows, mainly because a lot of people might not be aware that there is a national league for this minor sport. Yet Kraft isn’t the only billionaire willing to invest in the Premier Lacrosse League.
Why is Robert Kraft and others interested in the Premier Lacrosse League?
Did you know that lacrosse is the oldest team sport in North America? Probably not. It grew out of a tribal game played by Native Americans in the 1400s. This legacy has done little to make the game popular over the years, but after years of chaos and unease, a stable league has finally arrived. .
As explained in Joseph Pompliano’s newsletter, Huddle Up, it took a lot of trial and error to get there. In 1999, the first professional outdoor lacrosse league, Major League Lacrosse, was founded. Attendance was steadily increasing, but the players had no league support. The average salary was around $10,000 and the league did not provide health insurance. These are not livable conditions for anyone.
Star player Paul Rabil and his brother Mike started the Premier Lacrosse League in direct opposition to the status quo. They had the backing of investors like Creative Artists Agency, The Raine Group, and Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai to deliver much better player benefits. The average salary was $35,000, health care was a given, and players could even become league shareholders.
The PLL also made structural changes to the game to increase viewership. They shortened the playing field and the shot clock, used yellow balls instead of white and even added intra-match interviews with players after goals. At the presentation level, the wide-angle cameras have been removed.
These decisions helped secure sponsorship deals from Gatorade, Adidas, Champion, Ticketmaster and DraftKings. The PLL recently signed an exclusive partnership with NBC’s Peacock, bringing their content to hundreds of millions of homes.
These changes worked so well that the league’s ratings and revenue increased last year, despite having to rework their schedule on the fly (they replaced their traditional tour-based schedule with a tournament 16 days in July) and that they had no in-person presence.
It’s easy to guess which league won. The PLL and MLL announced a merger agreement last December, expanding the league from seven teams to eight and bringing all the talent together in one place. The PLL plans to double its revenue this year and hopes to reach profitability by 2024.
Robert Kraft is the latest investor in the PLL, providing an undisclosed amount after co-leading a funding round with Arctos Sports Partners and Joe Tsai. Kraft is well past the point where it must continue to do so. According to Celebrity Net Worth, he currently has a net worth of $6.2 billion — but you don’t get all that money without craving more.
He first made his fortune as CEO and chairman of the Kraft Group, a conglomerate with assets in paper and packaging, real estate and private equity. But the reason we all know him is his New England Patriots ownership. (Well, that and the arrest.)
He bought the team in 1994 for $172 million, setting the record for the highest price ever paid for a franchise. The Patriots are now worth around $5 billion, according to Forbes.
Kraft grew up in the Boston area, and many of its flashiest investments reside in Massachusetts. He also owns MLS’s New England Revolution, Gillette Stadium (where the Patriots and the Revolution play), retail spot Patriot Place and export team Boston Uprising.
Other owners and players have invested money in lesser-known American sports leagues
Many other big-name team owners and players are investing in smaller US leagues to find big profits at relatively low costs.
Major League Soccer has seen its profile rise in recent years, as has the stardom of those interested in becoming co-owners. Magic Johnson (Los Angeles Football Club), Kevin Durant (Philadelphia Union) and Steve Nash (Vancouver Whitecaps) have all bought minority stakes in recent years. (A larger list can be found on the official MLS website.)
James Harden has a small stake in the group that owns the Houston Dynamo of MLS and the Houston Dash of the National Women’s Soccer League. Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City NWSL) and Naomi Osaka (North Carolina Courage) also bought the NWSL, and Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wolf own the Orlando Pride.
According to Esports Insider, the world of esports is also a growing market, where everyone from Odell Beckham to Steph Curry to Michael Jordan is investing in teams.
Robert Kraft and Joe Tsai have already been replaced as the most renowned people to own a lacrosse team. A new team is being created in Las Vegas (it doesn’t yet have a name, team colors or logo), and participation will include a certain Wayne Gretzky, according to Review Journal.
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