Texan billionaire confirmed as preferred bidder for new Auckland A-League club

A bid led by Texan billionaire William P. Foley II has been confirmed as the frontrunner for a new men’s and women’s A-League expansion club in Auckland.

The Australian Professional Leagues (APL) says Bill Foley is the preferred bidder to win licences for entries in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men and Liberty A-League Women’s teams from season 2024-25.

A final decision is expected by the end of October, with the successful bidder paying a minimum buy-in fee of $25 million.

Foley, known widely as Bill, is the general partner of the global multi-club football operator Black Knight Football Club, is the chairman of English Premier League club Bournemouth and in January 2023, he acquired a significant minority stake in French Ligue 1 club FC Lorient.

Bournemouth and FC Lorient have a working partnership.

‘An important step towards professional football in Auckland’

A-Leagues commissioner Nick Garcia.

Commissioner of the A-Leagues Nick Garcia said:

“The awarding of Preferred Bidder Status is an important forward step towards new professional women’s and men’s teams in Auckland.

“Bill Foley and Black Knight Football Club are committed sports investors and bring direct elite football experience via their investment in AFC Bournemouth in the English Premier League and other European clubs.

“Importantly, Bill is passionate about Auckland and has a long-term relationship with New Zealand through his business interests.

“Auckland has been the largest city in Australia and New Zealand without a professional football team, despite football being the most popular team participation sport nationally in New Zealand.

“We look forward to building on the success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, providing football fans in Auckland with their new home team.”

‘Our goal is to build a winning organisation’

Foley said: “My family and I have a genuine appreciation and love for New Zealand. We will look to strengthen this connection even further by acquiring an A-Leagues expansion license in Auckland, which will allow us to establish both a men’s and women’s club in the city.

“Black Knight Football Club operates with a commitment to excellence on and off the pitch.

“Our goal will be to build a winning organization while simultaneously serving the community and growing the sport — and passion for the sport — at all levels. We are extremely excited to reach this stage in the process and look forward to the next steps.”

Licence approval is subject to successful completion of the necessary regulatory processes and approvals to be undertaken by the APL and Football Australia (FA).

Once approved by Football Australia, it will work with its regional governing body, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), and partners Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) and New Zealand Football (NZF) for endorsement.

Foley gave the following recent interview in the UK about his plans for EPL club Bournemouth and his approach to running sports organisations.

Who is Bill Foley?

Foley (78) is a United States-based owner of multiple sports teams and he has strong business connections to New Zealand.

Foley is the general partner of Black Knight Football Club, which owns 100% of AFC Bournemouth of the English Premier League and a significant minority ownership interest in FC Lorient of France’s Ligue 1.

He is also the owner of other sports and entertainment assets, including the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, which was an expansion team in 2017 and won the ice hockey’s Stanley Cup in 2023.

The Texas-born former US Air Force officer and corporate lawyer has invested in a diverse portfolio of businesses that range from insurance firms, to hospitality businesses and auto parts manufacturers.

His personal net worth was estimated by Forbes magazine at US$1.6 billion in 2023.

Foley owns multiple businesses in New Zealand, including Foley Wines Ltd, a public company listed on the NZ stock exchange, consisting of five wineries in Martinborough, Marlborough and Central Otago, a restaurant group with venues in Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown, including the iconic SOUL bar in Auckland, as well as the luxury lodge Wharekauhau on the South Wairarapa Coast.

Who else was in the running?

Media speculation has suggested the Foley bid was one of at least three considered by the APL.

The others were reportedly:

  • A consortium led by former All Black and property developer Ali Williams, with support from the Mowbray family, known for their success with the Zuru toys brand.
  • American Marc Mitchell, a minority shareholder in the Breakers basketball franchise. In anticipation, Mitchell has registered a company called Auckland Football and has set up a website, a Facebook page and an X account. Newshub have reported the Mitchell consortium included former All Whites Ryan Nelsen, Winston Reid and Tim Brown, and current Football Ferns captain Ali Riley.

Plans to add Auckland club to A-League

The Australian Professional League plans to grow the men’s and women’s A-League competitions to 16 teams each, introducing four new clubs over the next three years.

In the first step, Auckland and Canberra were identified as the “clear standouts” to provide teams 13 and 14 in the expansion.

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