The African billionaire in the English premiership
Harare – The English Premiership has an African among its aristocratic band of wealthy club owners but Egyptian businessman Assem Allam’s fortune pales in comparison to the richest man who owns a football team on the continent.
Allam, a 74-year-old manufacturing magnate who has transformed the fortunes of Hull City, taking over a football club that was being weighed down by debt and out of the top-flight league and bringing the stability that pushed it back into the Premiership, isn’t the first Egyptian to own a club in England.
Mohamed Al-Fayed, the Harrods tycoon, was the first after taking over Fulham for £6.25 million in 1997 and then selling the club in July this year to Shakid Khan, the billionaire Pakistan-born American businessman who also owns the Jacksonvile Jaggers of the National Football League, for £30 million.
Allam was born in Egypt in 1938 but fled his homeland in 1968 after running into problems with the Egyptian authorities and arrived in England where he enrolled at the University of Hull to study economics and taking up a job as an accountant at Tempest Diesel upon graduation.
When he used a loan to begin a buy-out of the then struggling company in 1981, renaming it Allam Marine, it marked the turning point in his journey into the millionaire boys’ club and, as the company prospered, he was named in 2006 as the UK Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernest & Young.
Three years ago, with Hull City in dire straits and facing possible administration after relegation from the Premiership, Allam and his son Ehab decided to take over the club and on October 18, 2010, it was confirmed that the family had paid £50 million for the takeover of the club.
Three years later, Allam led Hull City back into the English Premiership, something he regarded, as the dream moved closer to reality towards the end of last season, as one of his greatest achievements.
“If we were promoted to the Premier League it would be one of the proudest moments of my life,” Allam told English newspaper Daily Mail.
“Getting Hull City back into the Premier League is not about personal satisfaction or personal achievement, it is about the community, and giving this region a Premier League football club again. That would be one of my proudest moments.
“I don't think any of us here in August had imagined or dreamed of talking about automatic promotion.
“Our dream was to be in the play-offs. Now we have been in the top two for a while, which is very good. It looks promising and we can only do our best and in Steve Bruce we are lucky to have a very good manager
“Of course, it would be worth every penny, but you can't really put a money value on this. There is nothing we could do better for the area's reputation and image than getting this club back into the Premier League. When we are in the Premier League, nobody asks 'where is Hull?'”
Allam spent £66m of his personal funds, not supported in any way by bank loans tied to the club, just to finance Hull City’s return to the English Premiership and reaped immediate benefits as securing their top-flight ticket brought £150 million into the coffers of the club.
The Egyptian tycoon’s combined net value is estimated to be around £650 million (about US$1 billion) and that puts him in a richer bracket than the owner of five-time European Cup winners and English football giants, Liverpool, American businessman John W Henry at around £600 million.
But for all his riches, and the glamour that the English Premiership brings along, Allam’s fortunes pales into comparison to the man believed to be the wealthiest African owner of a football club in the world today.
That title is held by South African billionaire, Patrice Motsepe, who this year marks 10 years as the owner of Pretoria giants Mamelodi Sundowns, a team he acquired in 2003, and turned into Super Diski champions.
Motsepe, who is the executive chairman of African Rainbow Minerals, is estimated to have a net worth of US$3 billion and earlier this year he donated half of his wealth to charity.
In June this year, the Motsepe Foundation revealed that they had pumped in about R120 million into projects in various provinces in South Africa in just two months.
“The Motsepe Foundation has committed at least R120-million in the past two months for sustainable development and upliftment projects in various communities in the nine provinces of the country,” the foundation said on its website.
“The commitments were made as the first contribution by the Motsepe family who pledged to make R500-million available over the next three to five years for projects in education, women co-operatives and businesses, youth co-operatives and partnerships with religious organisations and workers organisations, traditional authorities, charitable organisations, and for sports, music and arts.
“These funds are in addition to rural development and other upliftment projects that the Motsepe Foundation and companies associated with the Motsepe family have been supporting over the years.”
The other three members of the Big Five of Africa’s wealthiest football club owners feature one Congolese businessman and politician, Moise Katumbi Chapwe, who owns TP Mazembe and turned them into African champions recently, and two South Africans – Kaizer Motaung and Irvin Khoza.
Motaung and Khosa have benefited immensely from the way their clubs, Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, have reaped huge benefits from the millions that have followed into South African football since Super Diski’s marriage with SuperSport changed the football landscape and became the magnet that lured mega-buck sponsors.
Motaung, who used to play for Pirates, formed his Chiefs in 1970 and has turned his club into a money-spinning commercial giant and that was demonstrated in 2004 when the businessman sold 40 percent of the stake in the club for R40 million, which roughly put its value at around R100 million.
Six years later, Motaung decided to buy back his stake and paid a cool R70 million for the ownership chunk that had been taken by Primedia, which means that in 2010, Kaizer Chiefs was valued at roughly at R175 million.
It’s even worth far much more now with reports indicating the Motaung’s net value is probably around R400 million (about US$40 million).
His son Bobby, who is the Kaizer Chiefs manager, last year told a Nelspruit court that he was worth around R12 million, his car was valued at R4 million and he earned about R100 000 a month, which many felt was a modest declaration of his earnings.
Katumbi, who has turned TP Mazembe into one of the top football clubs in Africa, is worth around US$60 million while Khoza, the man who headed Africa’s hosting of its first FIFA World Cup three years ago, is reported to have a net value of around US$10 million.
Both TP Mazembe and Pirates have won the Champions League with the Soweto giants firmly in the running this year to make the final of Africa’s premier inter-club tournament and the US$1.2 million cheque that comes with winning it.