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Friday, July 19, 2024

LAFC buys majority stake in Grasshopper Club Zurich

Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles FC have added Grasshopper Club Zurich to their growing network of clubs, buying a 90 per cent stake in the Swiss outfit from Hong Kong-based Champion Union.

The Chinese company, which is owned by Jenny Wang, the wife of Fosun International boss Guo Guangchang, has been trying to sell the team, who are better known outside Switzerland as Grasshoppers, for over a year.

The deal brings an end to the club’s partnership with Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers, who are owned Fosun, a sprawling Chinese conglomerate.

Injury cut short the loan spell of Wolves’ Nigel Lonwijk in Zurich late last year and teammate Theo Corbeanu is likely to return, too. Former player and Wolves loan manager Matt Jackson appears to be out of a job, too, as he has been replaced as president at Grasshoppers by LAFC chief operating and chief financial officer Stacy Johns.

For LAFC, this latest move means they now own Switzerland’s oldest and most successful team, have a stake in Austrian fourth-tier side FC Wacker Innsbruck and have a joint venture with Bayern Munich.

The latter, called Red & Gold Football, describes itself as an “integrated, unique global platform” for the “promotion of young talents and their responsible accompaniment into professional football”. Set up last year, it has agreements with Uruguayan side Racing Club de Montevideo and Gambian academy Gambinos Stars Africa.

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In a statement published on the LAFC website late on Wednesday, club co-president Larry Freedman said the 2022 MLS champions were “excited to partner with” Grasshoppers, “an iconic brand in Swiss and European football, with an incredible tradition of success and a foundation built on developing top-level talent”.

Founded in 1886, Grasshoppers have won 27 Swiss titles and 19 Swiss cups. They have found success harder to come by in recent years, though. Their last Swiss championship win came in 2003 and they were relegated to the second tier in 2019. However, they bounced back in 2021 and are currently eighth in the top flight.

LAFC, on the other hand, have only known success during their short life, winning two Supporters Shields and an MLS Cup since their first season in 2018. They have also twice been runner-up in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Their other main claim to fame is the star-studded ownership group, which combines famous names from the worlds of finance, entertainment and sport, with NBA legend Magic Johnson and Hollywood superstar Will Ferrell being among the 27-strong syndicate.

Another LAFC co-owner is Malaysian businessman Ruben Gnanalingam, the majority owner of Championship side Queens Park Rangers.

This means the west London-based team is now part of a network of clubs that includes all of LAFC’s connections and FC Cincinnati, the MLS team owned by QPR minority owner Richard Reilly.

So, while one multi-club door is closing for Wolves, it might be opening up for QPR.

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(Michael Janosz/USSF/Getty Images)



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