Celebrity Football Club Owners: Delia Smith Amongst Stormzy, Ryan Reynolds, Will Ferrell & More

Will Ferrell
Starfrenzy / Bigstockphoto.com

While many football clubs today are solely owned by wealthy businesspeople who made their fortunes in the corporate world, there are some owned (or part-owned) by well-known celebrity figures. These high-profile owners can help contribute to the profile of the club, something very much highlighted in the case of Wrexham FC. Since being taken over by the Hollywood duo of Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney the previously non-league Welsh outfit have become something of a major tourist attraction.

One thing you may notice about this list is that celebrities tend to own relatively small clubs, rather than the biggest names in world football. This is largely because while celebrities may earn millions during their careers, rarely will they amass the wealth needed to buy a “big” football team. Chelsea, for example, cost Todd Boehly £4.25bn, which is not the kind of money any actor or actress can make with a few blockbuster films.

Where celebrities do own more sizeable teams, they tend to be part-owners, with a share in the club rather than control it outright. This allows them to be part of a club with a much-reduced risk element, which can be a great thing as football clubs do have a habit of haemorrhaging money when things go wrong. According to The Times, even English clubs, with their often-packed stadiums and huge TV audiences, lost almost £1bn during the 2021/22 season. Out of the 92 in the Football League, 63 generated a loss, so in terms of investment, clubs do tend to be a risky option.

Austin FC – Matthew McConaughey

Austin FC – Matthew McConaughey
All-Pro Reels / Wikipedia.org

As a born and bred Texan, there was no other club Matthew McConaughey was going to involve himself with when he caught the football, or rather soccer, bug. Unlike some celeb owners, the award-winning actor has displayed a real and genuine passion for the club, getting involved at almost every opportunity. In the past, he has even gone in front of the crowd to fire them up, either by playing bongos or acting out moments from The Wolf of Wall Street.

McConaughey is not, however, the majority owner of the club – that would instead be Anthony Precourt, CEO of Two Oak Ventures. McConaughey has a relatively small piece of the pie considering there are six other minority owners, such as Marius Haas from Dell and energy businessman Bryan Sheffield. McConaughey is the headline act though given his status and outward enthusiasm for the club.

Bournemouth – Michael B. Jordan

Bournemouth – Michael B. Jordan
Joan Hernandez Mir / Wikipedia.org

AFC Bournemouth cost £120m to buy in 2022 and this is not the sort of money Creed actor Michael B. Jordan had in his back pocket. Instead, the tab was covered by Bill Foley’s consortium Black Knight Football and Entertainment, who also own the ice hockey side the Las Vegas Golden Knights. The company that actually owns the south coast side though is Turquoise Bidco Limited (a wholly owned subsidiary of BKFE) of which Foley is an executive.

Slightly confusing corporate structures aside for one moment, one of the investors in Foley’s consortium is Hollywood A-lister Michael B. Jordan. By far the most recognisable of the minor owners, he was regularly featured in headlines when the move was picking up steam. It really helped put the relatively modest south coast side, with its 11,037-capacity stadium, on the global map, if only for a short while.

AFC Croydon – Stormzy & Wilfried Zaha

AFC Croydon – Stormzy & Wilfried Zaha
Stormzy, left (Frank Schwichtenberg / Wikipedia.org) | Wilfried Zaha, right (James Boyes / Flickr.com)

Although both Stormzy and Wilfried Zaha are globally recognised names, you cannot accuse the pair of forgetting their roots. Zaha, who is still very much active in professional football, moved to the London borough of Croydon as a four-year-old. Stormzy on the other hand was born in the area and his music is strongly influenced by his London surroundings. Comparatively, AFC Croydon Athletic are certainly not a big name, having only been founded in 2012, but having a small club will give Stormy and Zaha great control over its future.

There might be a conflict of interest should Zaha’s current team Galatasaray face Croydon in a competitive match but given Croydon play in the ninth tier of English football, there is little danger of this! It should also be mentioned that this was a three-way purchase with Crystal Palace’s former head of player care Danny Young also in on the act. As the move was only announced in the summer of 2023, time will tell if Croydon can turn things around having finished 15th and 18th in the previous two seasons in their division, the Combined Counties League Premier Division South.

FC Andorra – Gerard Piqué

FC Andorra – Gerard Piqué
Кирилл Венедиктов / Wikipedia.org

This may seem like a strange purchase but it makes a little more sense if you know where Andorra sits geographically. The tiny principality sites on the Spanish-French border, around three hours from Barcelona, where Piqué spent the bulk of his playing career. Additionally, the club plays in the Spanish football system and currently sits in the Segunda Division (second tier). This makes the club a much more attractive proposition than any other Andorran club as even the top league within the country has a tiny following, with many stadiums having a capacity of just a few hundred.

Piqué only took over Els Tricolors in December of 2018 and within months the club secured promotion following a superb 22-game unbeaten streak. It ended up being a double promotion as they took the place of CF Reus Deportiu in Segunda Division B after the club were relegated for failing to pay their players. Another promotion followed in 2021, despite losing in the play-offs and another one the season after. Now they find themselves in the Segunda Division for the first time in their history, needless to say, Gerard Piqué is a popular man in much of the Andorran capital.

Norwich City – Delia Smith

Norwich City – Delia SmithNorwich City – Delia Smith
Delia and her husband, Michael Wynn-Jones (Dweller / Wikipedia.org)

Forget your big-name actors and professional footballers, how about a celebrity chef football club owner for a change? This seemingly unlikely combination occurred before the spiralling costs involved in football. Delia bought a majority stake in the Canaries back in 1996, along with her husband, and has remained on her perch almost entirely since. Over 25 years with majority rule was quite a run and Delia had plenty of highs and lows in this time.

Five promotions, six relegations and a bizarre half-time speech where she shouted the infamous words “let’s be ‘avin you” have made her time at Norwich quite the wild ride. It is a ride she is partially stepping back from though having given up her majority stake following a shareholder meeting in October 2023. This change is subject to Football League approval but if given the green light, Delia and her husband will retain a 40% share of the club, putting her level with American businessman Mark Attanasio, owner of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Inter Miami – David Beckham

Inter Miami – David Beckham
Brian MInkoff-London Pixels / Wikipedia.org

There are three people listed as owners of Inter Miami, Jorge Mas (president of Real Zaragoza), his brother Jose Mas and global superstar David Beckham. Unlike most of the deals discussed on this page, this was not a takeover bid, rather the trio joined forced to create a new team from scratch. Although there was no purchase cost as such, setting up a football team is not cheap. For one thing, they had to construct a new stadium, something which cost around $60m and then there was the franchise fee. While playing in the US, Beckham negotiated terms that enabled him to buy an expansion franchise for a reported $25m. Although more than average at the time, by the time Inter Miami played their first game, expansion fees had jumped up to around half a billion dollars.

So, all in all, Beckham netted himself something of a bargain and the newly founded club, which played their first match in 2020, are now worth around $600m according to recent estimates. Lionel Messi’s role at the club could well see this number shoot up even further. The Argentine, who to be frank, is still good enough to play at any club in the world, set the league alight when scoring 11 goals in his first 9 appearances. The club are in need of this kind of magic having only managed to reach as high as 12th place in the overall MLS table across their first four attempts.

Los Angeles FC – Will Ferrell & Magic Johnson

Los Angeles FC – Will Ferrell & Magic Johnson
Will Ferrell, left (Eva Rinaldi / Wikipedia.org) | Magic Johnson, right (Daniel Benavides / Wikipedia.org)

As Los Angeles FC list 24 individuals on their ownership page, it is fair to say that neither Will Ferrell nor Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr has a huge share in the MLS club. Comedian and actor Ferrell was named as one of the co-owners prior to the official unveiling of the club crest in 2016. He seems to be enjoying his role as one of the public faces of the franchise and is no stranger to the BMO Stadium where they play their home matches.

For former basketball legend, Magic Johnson, investing in sports is not something new. Back in 1994, he had a stake in the LA Lakers, which he then later sold for five or six times the amount he had paid. He also has a share in the LA Dodgers and more recently invested in American Football outfit, the Washington Commanders.

Valladolid CF – Ronaldo Nazario

Valladolid CF - Ronaldo Nazario
Web Summit / Flickr.com

Club takeovers often take place when someone with enough money spots a potential bargain, rather than having any prior connection with the club. This is what happened here, as Brazilian legend Ronaldo never played for Real Valladolid nor did he have any previous links to the area. When the opportunity to scoop up a majority share in a La Liga club for just $30m came knocking though, it was something too good to turn down. He later increased the size of his ownership too, so that by 2020 he owned 82% of the club.

The White and Violets have remained something of a yo-yo club under Ronaldo’s ownership and he was not a popular figure following the club’s relegation at the end of the 2022/23 season. Protests only intensified at the start of the 2023/24 campaign following a very poor start to life back in the second division. Despite supporter complaints though, it does not look like R9 is going anywhere too soon. He did try and sell the club but an €80m deal fell through in the summer of 2023. Now it seems he would rather focus his attention on boyhood club Cruzeiro, of which he now owns 70% following a $70m investment.

Wrexham – Ryan Reynolds & Rob McElhenney

Wrexham FC - Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney
Ryan Reynolds (Dick Thomas Johnson / Wikipedia.org) | Rob McElhenney (Gage Skidmore / Wikipedia.org)

Last and certainly not least we arrive at the pairing of Reynolds and McElhenney. As unlikely as this takeover seemed, there are few football fans who are unaware of it now. As highlighted by the popular documentary, Welcome To Wrexham, the duo immediately forged a genuine connection with the club and the local area. Initially, there were some local concerns that this was something of a short-term publicity stunt but Deadpool and the It’s Always Sunny in Philadephia stars have proven this this not the case.

After failing at the first attempt under new ownership, Wrexham did manage to return to the Football League at the second time of asking. Having not played in the fourth tier of English football since 2007/08, getting them back up represented a fine achievement. For the Red Dragons faithful it has largely been something a fairytale and their change in fortunes has been a much welcome one. Fans from other clubs view Wrexham’s turnaround less favourably though, accusing them of simply buying success. They do have a point to be fair as when securing promotion, Wrexham’s wage bill was reported to be twice as much as the teams in the league above them, let alone the National League.