Another one of LeBron James' investments is turning into gold, as Liverpool advanced to the UEFA Champions League final for the first time in 11 years by beating AS Roma on Wednesday by an aggregate score of 7-6.
Sources said James received a 2 percent stake in Liverpool in April 2011, when his marketing firm, LRMR, agreed to a joint venture with Fenway Sports Partners. Fenway Sports Partners is owned by Boston Red Sox owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner, who bought Liverpool for a bargain $477 million in October 2010.
The Liverpool owners at the time, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, were looking to get $954 million for the highly levered club.
Sources said James' 2 percent stake, which he still retains, was given to him in lieu of roughly $6.5 million.
Last June, Forbes said Liverpool was the eighth-most-valuable soccer team in the world at a value of $1.49 billion. But the trip to the UEFA Champions League final will guarantee an award of more than $100 million to Liverpool.
One sports investment banker told ESPN that given the team's rise to prominence, combined with its history, which includes the second-most titles in English soccer (18), the team could be sold today conservatively for $1.6 billion. That means James' investment has grown nearly five times ($6.5 million to $32 million) in seven years.
This isn't the first investment that has turned out well for James. In 2014, he made more than $30 million when Beats by Dre sold to Apple. A $1 million investment James and his team put into fast-casual pizza chain Blaze Pizza has turned into at least $25 million on paper and more likely closer to $45 million, according to sources with knowledge of his deal.
James' business partner Maverick Carter would not confirm James' valuations on any of the basketball star's businesses but was willing to address the Liverpool investment.
"It has been an honor for us to be in on this deal with Fenway Sports Partners' John Henry and Tom Werner," Carter said. "It has been a thrill to watch such a storied club make their way back to the top again and to be a part of it all. LeBron likes the fact that he's diversified in another global sport."
Liverpool, which has yet to win a modern Premier League title, won the UEFA Champions League in 2005. The team takes on Cristiano Ronaldo and two-time defending champions Real Madrid on May 26 in Kiev, Ukraine.