Seeking to beef up its MLS bona fides, Phoenix Rising FC is adding European-based Advantage Sports Union, with experience in running French Premier Ligue 1 professional soccer team OGC Nice, to its ownership group.
The key to the investment: Advantage Sports Union chairman Alex Zheng, the global entrepreneur behind one of the largest hotel chains in Asia, the Plateno Group. His goal, according to a Phoenix Rising FC press release, is to expand the tourism industry in sports, especially in soccer. Zheng will bring his hospitality and tourism expertise, international soccer knowledge and business acumen to Phoenix Rising FC as its newest owner and director of the club’s governing board.
“We were fortunate and flattered to meet with a number of impressive investors who have interest in Phoenix Rising FC, but Alex Zheng was exceptional,” said Berke Bakay, governor of Phoenix Rising FC, in a press statement. “His amazing knowledge, experience and intellect were only exceeded by his incredible personality and passion for our sport. My partners and I were unanimous in our desire to add Advantage Sports Union to our ownership and Alex to Phoenix Rising FC’s leadership.”
From left to right: Co-Owner & Director – Tim Riester, Co-Owner & Co-Chairman Brett Johnson, Co-Owner & Governor Berke Bakay, Co-Owner & Director Alex Zheng, Co-Owner & Director Mark Detmer, Co-Owner & Director William Kraus (PRNewsfoto/Phoenix Rising Football Club)
In addition to its relationship with OGC Nice and ownership of Phoenix Rising FC, Advantage Sports Union is currently building an international youth soccer academy in China and marketing club alliances throughout Asia.
“Phoenix Rising FC has wonderful potential,” said Zheng in a press statement. “Soccer fans throughout Arizona and across the United States are embracing the team after only its first year, and its soccer operations are very impressive. I am confident we can assist the Club with its MLS aspirations and create an unprecedented pathway from youth soccer to the highest levels of international competition with Arizona as the North American hub. Personally, I have a deep connection with Phoenix, a wonderful place where my daughter was born. To partner with Phoenix Rising FC along with all of its great owners is not just a business deal, it’s personal for me as well.”
Adding another heavyweight to the Phoenix Rising FC ownership group certainly boosts the group’s chances of landing an MLS expansion team. Right now MLS is still evaluating bids, and while Phoenix Rising FC wasn’t among the list of finalists (Sacramento, Detroit, Cincinnati), it’s no secret the Sacramento bid has been facing challenges while seeking a new lead investor.
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