José Bautista acquires USL’s Las Vegas Lights

Las Vegas Lights FC

Former MLB All-Star José Bautista is the new principal owner of USL Championship’s Las Vegas Lights FC, replacing former owner Bret Lashbrook as chairman and governor of the club ahead of the 2024 season kickoff.

Terms of the purchase were not disclosed.

“Las Vegas is the place to be and has emerged as a big professional sports town, and I will do everything I can to push this club forward,” José Bautista said via press release. “As a soccer fan and former professional athlete, I am excited to be involved with the world’s game, Since my retirement from professional baseball, I have witnessed the incredible growth of soccer in the United States, and I look forward to sharing my love of sports with the Las Vegas soccer community.”

Over a 15-year career in Major League Baseball, Bautista notched 344 career home runs and played for eight clubs, most notably the Toronto Blue Jays. He was named an MLB All-Star six years in a row from 2010-15 and twice led the majors in home runs, in 2010 and 2011, the same years he won the Hank Aaron Award.

Since his retirement from professional baseball, Bautista has established himself as an investor, board member, philanthropist and entrepreneur, including partnerships with significant brands, including Audi, Hublot, Coca-Cola, TD Bank, Fanatics, General Mills, The Players Tribune, Silver Jeans, Booster Juice (Canada), Pizza Pizza (Canada) and New Balance.

José Bautista was an early equity partner, lead investor, and board member for Marucci Sports, a baseball equipment startup that was sold to Compass Diversified Holdings in 2020. Additional business interests include stakes in Canada Goose, which went public in 2017, and Endy Sleep, which was acquired by Sleep Country in 2018, and currently serves as a Partner and Senior Advisor to Aquilance, an household financial management firm that assists successful individuals, entrepreneurs and families to make better-informed financial decisions and save time on administrative tasks.

“Throughout my playing career, I recognized the importance of giving back in meaningful, intentional ways,” Bautista said. “Likewise, as an owner, I am committed to having a real impact on the local community and fostering a deep connection with the people of Las Vegas.”

Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, Bautista represented his home country at the 2020 Summer Olympics (delayed until 2021 due to COVID-19) in Tokyo, Japan. His leadership helped the D.R. earn a bronze medal, punctuated by a walk-off hit and his signature bat flip that sealed the win over Israel to secure the team’s place in the semifinals.

“José’s vision and values align perfectly with our league’s ambitions and the positive impact our clubs are having in their local communities,” said USL Deputy CEO and Chief Real Estate Officer Justin Papadakis via press release. “José is the latest in a recent series of world-class athletes to invest in USL clubs, a clear indication of our league’s increased prominence in the professional sports industry and the real value proposition of investing in soccer today. The game is growing rapidly in the United States, and our clubs are bringing high-level professional soccer to communities across the country, providing long-term economic development and creating positive social impact every day.”

Lights FC debuted in the USL Championship in 2018 and plays at Cashman Field in downtown Las Vegas, the former home of Triple-A baseball in Vegas. Whether that former ballpark remains home of pro soccer remains to be seen.

“José brings a competitive athlete’s mindset to everything he does, and he will certainly bring new expectations for the club’s performance, on and off the field,” said USL President Paul McDonough via press release. “Jose’s vision for the sporting side is ambitious, including the acquisition of international players and the forming of an academy. We will support Jose during this transition period and look forward to seeing Lights FC shine brighter than ever in Vegas.”

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August Publications