DECONSTRUCTED: Short goes long on Sunderland FC

PERE magazine July/August 2009. Lone Star's Ellis Short is ploughing his millions into keeping English soccer club Sunderland in the Premier League

It wouldn't feel right to get through a year without a takeover of a major sports franchise by a private equity player.

Thankfully, Lone Star co-founder Ellis Short has filled the void after taking a 100 percent ownership stake in Sunderland Football Club in the North East of England.

Ellis retired from Lone Star in 2007 but apparently caught the soccer bug after moving to the UK a decade ago. He was originally part of an Irish syndicate of investors, called the Drumaville Consortium, which took over Sunderland FC in 2006, in the hope of restoring the club to its former glory as a top-flight team.

Now though Ellis is taking full control and hoping his fortune amassed during years of buying non-performing loans will not be wasted on non-performing footballers. The current squad only narrowly avoided relegation from the English Premier League to a lower division this season.

Ellis Short

He joins an increasingly long list of fellow LBO veterans who have risked personal wealth, and in some cases the wrath of LPs, in buying a sports franchise.

Tom Hicks, most noted for being the man who paid $250 million to baseball pro Alex Rodriguez, invested in the Texas Rangers baseball team and more recently in England's Liverpool Football Club.

Private equity firms that have also taken a shine to sporting teams include Wyc Grousbeck of Highland Capital Partners and Stephen Pagliuca, of Bain Capital, who bought the Boston Celtics. Then there is CVC Capital Partners, which owns a controlling stake in the Formula One Group, the company that conducts the Formula One motorsport. Add to the list Abu Dhabi United Group, which last year purchased Manchester City Football Club in the English Premier League, and Colony Capital, which has a controlling stake in the French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain, and Short finds himself in good company.