It is official. Auckland will have a team in the A-Leagues from 2024-25 as the Isuzu UTE A-League and Liberty A-League expand, but is who is the man behind the newest team?
Meet Bill Foley.
The American billionaire secured the license to bring A-Leagues football to Auckland as they join Wellington Phoenix as New Zealand representatives, with the Isuzu UTE A-League and Liberty A-League set to expand to 13 teams.
He is also the general partner of the global multi-club football operator Black Knight Football Club – the group of investors who own Premier League side AFC Bournemouth.
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Through Black Knight, he also has a significant minority ownership interest in Ligue 1’s FC Lorient in France.
Foley is also aiming to invest in Scottish Premiership side Hibernian. The US-based owner is not just involved in football, however. He is the owner of NHL franchise Vegas Golden Knights, who won the Stanley Cup this year.
Vegas Golden Knights
The 78-year-old explored buying NFL franchise Jacksonville Jaguars while he was living in Florida before Foley and Black Knight were awarded an NHL expansion franchise in 2016 that would become Vegas Golden Knights.
It cost $US500million ($AUD762m) for Foley’s Black Night to bring the NHL to Las Vegas seven years ago.
Even before the NHL awarded an ice hockey team to the city, Foley said he wanted to make the Stanley Cup play-offs in three seasons and win the Stanley Cup in six.
After losing the Cup Final to the Washington Capitals in their inaugural 2017-18 season, he accomplished that mission as the Golden Knights fulfilled his pledge by topping the Florida Panthers in their sixth season – 2022-23.
“This team was put together with a thought process to win the Stanley Cup in six years,” Foley said after the triumph.
“I made a silly statement six and a half years ago — play-offs in three, Cup in six — and the boys actually remembered it, and they played for it, and they did it.”
Foley, who also owns multiple businesses in New Zealand, branched out to football in December last year when he and Black Knight completed their takeover of the Premier League’s Bournemouth.
A deal reportedly in excess of £100m ($AUD190m) saw Foley replace Maxim Demin at Vitality Stadium.
“I have tremendous respect for the passion and support the Bournemouth community shows for this club and believe that connection to the community is the foundation for success of any sports team,” Foley said in a statement at the time.
“We will move forward with an ‘always advance, never retreat’ approach that has defined all of my endeavours.
“I am committed to work with the best football and business minds available to enhance player development, facilities, and the fan experience to put AFC Bournemouth in the best possible position to succeed.”
In their first season back in the Premier League, Foley’s Bournemouth ended 2022-23 in 15th position – five points clear of the relegation zone.
During the off-season, Bournemouth parted with Gary O’Neil and appointed Spanish manager Andoni Iraola.
Through 12 rounds this term, the Cherries are 16th and four points above the drop zone.
A month after taking control of Bournemouth, Foley and Black Knight acquired a significant minority ownership interest in French club Lorient the following month.
The agreement in the Ligue 1 side enabled Black Knight to invest additional capital after the 2022-23 season.
“We are excited to announce a strategic partnership and investment in FC Lorient,” said Foley in January.
“Loic Fery [Lorient’s president and owner] has successfully built a best-in-class football club and will be a great partner as we build BKFC into a leading multi-club football operator.
“I look forward to partnering with Loic and his team to accelerate the success of FC Lorient and BKFC.”
In 2022-23, Lorient – who were promoted in 2019-20 – finished 10th in Ligue 1 and reached the Coupe de France Round of 16.
Lorient – a club who have never won Ligue 1 – have won two of their opening 12 matches this season to be 16th and in the relegation play-off spot.
Henderson Silver Knights
Four years after buying the Golden Knights, Foley and Black Knight purchased an AHL franchise in 2020 to help act as a development side for the NHL club.
In their first season, Henderson Silver Knights playing in the American Hockey League – which serves as the primary development league for the NHL – made to the final of the AHL Calder Cup play-offs.
They lost in the opening round last season while they did not feature in the post-season this year.
Vegas Knight Hawks
Aside from two professional hockey teams in Nevada, Foley also owns the indoor football team in Las Vegas.
Foley an Black Knight acquired an expansion team in the Indoor Football League in 2021 and they joined the competition in 2022.
In their debut season, the Hawks went 6-10.
So far in 2023, the Hawks are 5-10 in the Western Conference.
Foley could be about to add another football club to his portfolio.
According to reports, Foley is also aiming to invest in Scottish Premiership side Hibernian, where Australian trio Lewis Miller, Martin Boyle and Jimmy Jeggo are based in Edinburgh.
Hibs are currently owned by the family of Ron Gordon, who died earlier in 2023, and they have no desire to sell the club. However, they are open to the possibility of allowing Foley to come on board as a non-controlling investor, and discussions have already been held to that effect.
“I’m fascinated by the Scottish Premier League,” Foley told the Men In Blazers podcast in September.
“They play hard, Scots are tough. They play a tough brand of football. And I believe there are opportunities to make one of the number four, five or six SPL (Scottish Premiership) teams, to get them to number three and they play in Europe.
“I believe we can pull that off with not a gigantic investment – and be a minority investor, be supportive of that club, and then work on sponsorship together because we have a whole sponsorship and I know we can help an SPL team. We’re working towards that goal right now with a particular team.
“Then we have our sights set on some other clubs. And I believe we could end up with four or five economic interests in clubs. We would then have a system in place for players to advance and move on to the next club, then the next club. We will have similar analytics staff in place, and technical directors, to look for the right type of players who can ultimately play for AFC Bournemouth.”