The City Football Group – the Abu Dhabi-based owner of Manchester City and New York City as well as four other football clubs around the world – has become the anchor investor in Sapphire Sport, a $115m (€101m) sport venture capital fund.
Owners and investors from across the five major American sports leagues – NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS – are involved in the US-based fund, which launches with an existing portfolio of five sport-related startups, including football streaming platform mycujoo and Phoenix Labs, an independent gaming studio.
The fund will be overseen by Doug Higgins and Michael Spirito, managing directors of Sapphire Ventures, the venture capital firm which will administer Sapphire Sport.
“Challenging the conventional approach is at the heart of our ethos at City Football Group,” said Ferran Soriano, chief executive of CFG. “Investing in Sapphire Sport, a first of its kind fund, is a natural extension of our original global model, which pairs teams in six countries and five continents with football related businesses, which help drive our growth and success.”
Other Sapphire Sport investors include: adidas; Anschutz Entertainment Group; Major League Baseball; Bank of Montreal; the ownership of the Indiana Pacers; Intersect Ventures; Jeremy Jacobs, owner of the Boston Bruins and Delaware North; the New York Jets; the funds affiliated with the owners of the San Francisco 49ers; the San Jose Sharks; SAP; Sinclair Broadcast Group; Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning; and WISE Ventures, an investment fund led by the Wilf family, real estate developers and professional sports team owners.