Gordon Rubenstein, the head of Raine Group’s venture capital arm, has agreed to join U.S. digital entrepreneur John Textor in his planned takeover of French football club Olympique Lyonnais.
Rubenstein said in an interview he’s joining Textor’s consortium in a personal capacity as he sees “a lot of upside in the French league.” He said his background in technology and content could help Lyon with fan engagement.
“I think we have an incredibly strong group behind the effort, which is focused on creating value for the community,” Rubenstein said. “Lyon is one of the most historic women’s and men’s teams in the whole of France.”
Rubenstein, who serves as managing partner of Raine Ventures, is on the board of the French dating app Happn and digital video network Tastemade Inc. Raine affiliates have previously helped fund the Premier Lacrosse League and the organizer of a new basketball competition called the East Asia Super League.
“Gordon and I are of like minds as to how consumer facing technologies can strengthen the bond between club and community,” Textor said in an emailed statement. “I am thrilled to have him on the team.”
Jean-Pierre Conte, chairman of San Francisco-based private equity firm Genstar Capital, is also among the group of investors that committed about €100 million ($105 million) to support the deal, Bloomberg News reported last month.
Other investors have also been in talks to join the Textor consortium, people with knowledge of the matter said. A spokesperson for Lyon declined to comment.
Lyon said that Textor’s Eagle Football Holdings LLC investment vehicle confirmed that all necessary approvals were obtained and all related contracts were signed, allowing parties to complete the transaction. The deal is expected to close on Dec. 19.
Textor agreed to acquire Lyon in June, only to be beset by delays linked to financing the takeover, which values the Ligue 1 club at about €800 million. Things were further complicated by his co-ownership of English Premier League team Crystal Palace FC.
The new financial backers brought in for the Lyon deal changed the Eagle Football’s ownership makeup, something that drew the attention of the Premier League and Crystal Palace’s co-owners and threatened to scupper the deal.
Rubenstein joins a host of U.S. financiers flooding into European football, drawn by the sport’s growth potential and lower valuations compared with sports franchises back home. At one point, Bill Foley, owner of the Vegas Golden Knights NHL team, had been in talks to back the Lyon takeover. Foley this week completed his acquisition of Premier League club AFC Bournemouth in a deal that included minority investment from actor Michael B Jordan.
A proponent of the so-called multi-club model, Textor has spent quickly in his quest to build a global football stable. Along with Crystal Palace, Eagle Football also owns stakes in Brazilian club Botafogo and Belgium’s RWD Molenbeek.
Lyon is one of France’s most successful clubs. Its men’s team has won seven Ligue 1 championships, while its women’s team has won the Division 1 title 15 times, according to its website.