A senior treasurer of the Conservative Party looks set to become one of the biggest investors in football in the US on the brink of buying a Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise in a record $500m (£400m) deal.
Mohamed Mansour, who has donated £600,000 to the Tories since 2016 and was appointed treasurer by Rishi Sunak last December, is expected to be officially awarded the new franchise, based in San Diego, California, on Thursday.
The £400m price tag would be the sixth biggest football deal in the world, behind Chelsea, AC Milan and Manchester United, but less than the £300m Saudi takeover of Newcastle in 2022.
He is expected to create the club from scratch by recruiting a full set of players, staff and an academy, which sources suggest could add an extra $200m to the bill.
Mansour, a 75-year-old British-Egyptian billionaire Manchester United fan who was an early backer of Facebook and Twitter, has already invested in football with Right to Dream, a group of football academies based in Ghana, Egypt and Denmark.
His company Man Capital – the London-based investment group of which he is the founder and chair – became the majority shareholder at Danish Superliga club Nordsjaelland in January 2021.
Mansour has previously admitted in an interview with The Daily Telegraph that he was looking to add an English club to his portfolio following the success at Nordsjaelland. “Is England on our radar screen? Definitely,” he explained.
The new MLS team in San Diego will be jointly owned by Mansour and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, an indigenous American tribe which is believed to have lived in the San Diego area for more than 12,000 years.
According to Forbes, Mansour’s net worth is $3.6bn (£2.9bn).
The San Diego franchise look set to join MLS in 2025, ahead of the 2026 World Cup being jointly hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada, but the $500m price tag is the most that has ever been paid for a US football franchise. It will take the number of teams in the MLS to 30.
The previous record was the $325m for the team based in Charlotte, North Carolina and, by contrast, David Beckham paid just $25m for Inter Miami following a deal he negotiated when signing for LA Galaxy as a player.
MLS recently signed a global $2.5bn, 10-year TV deal with Apple TV, which starts this summer, while San Diego plan to rent the 35,000-seat Snapdragon Stadium, owned by San Diego State University, which has previously hosted international matches.