(Bloomberg) -- The Azteca Stadium in Mexico City has hosted more World Cup games than any other. It’s where Diego Maradona scored his infamous “hand of God” goal in 1986. And it’s the home of one of Mexico’s most revered soccer teams: Club America. 

It’s a fitting place to talk to the club’s controlling owner, Emilio Azcarraga, a couple of hours before America would go on to win its 15th Mexican league title on May 26. This one would be especially sweet because the club had already won the league’s autumn tournament, giving America a coveted double-championship.

Azcarraga, 56, arrives at the stadium early on the deal we don’t discuss possible outcomes for the final due to his superstitions. With two hours to go before the match starts, the stadium is already a sea of yellow jerseys, dotted by a smaller share of fans draped in the deep blue of crosstown rival Cruz Azul. 

Club America has been on more than one kind of winning streak lately. Its parent company, Ollamani SAB, was spun off from Mexican media giant Grupo Televisa SAB in February, and the shares have been on a tear. They’re up 49% since the stock’s debut with the ticker symbol AGUILCPO — an allusion to Aguilas, or Eagles, the team’s nickname. (An ollamani is a player of an ancient ball game popular in prehispanic Mexico.)

Ollamani’s stock exchange debut made America the first football club to trade in Mexico — and one of the few in the world, along with England’s Manchester United Plc, Germany’s Borussia  Dortmund, and Italy’s Juventus Football Club SpA.

“We’ve always wanted to be innovative,” Azcarraga says, standing outside of his box ahead of the game, which would be delayed by about 40 minutes due to an intense storm. “While Ollamani is still a few months old, I’m sure it’s going to be the start of a great story.”

Azcarraga was chief executive officer at Televisa until 2017, when he ceded the title to two other executives, staying on as chairman. The media company operated the most-watched Mexican broadcaster, founded by his grandfather, along with the nation’s biggest cable and satellite TV providers. A 2021 deal with US Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Holdings Inc. to combine programming assets sparked a further review of Televisa’s business structure, leading to the soccer spinoff.

At Ollamani, Azcarraga oversees a smaller empire. In addition to the football club, there’s a chain of casinos and a publishing business. But it’s clear that football  — and the team his father built — are where his passion lies. After a draw in the first leg in the 2024 Clausura final, the match starts poorly for America, with a few goal attempts from Cruz Azul putting the home-team fans on edge. But near the end of the second half, the referee calls a controversial penalty for America that ultimately hands the Aguilas the championship. 

Unsurprisingly, Azcarraga is elated. He’s surrounded by his wife, Sharon Fastlicht, and about a dozen of his closest friends and family who envelop him in hugs for a good 10 minutes. With a history of running onto the pitch in excitement, he manages to restrain himself this time around.  

The following day, Club America’s women’s team will play in their league’s final. Azcarraga will fly north to Monterrey for the game, where this time his side will lose on penalties.

Azcarraga says both America teams and the Mexico national team are the only ones he roots for. He confesses to a nationalistic bent when it comes to sports, believing that owners should be connected to their fan communities.

“It’s conflicting to me to see an investment fund owner have a piece of Manchester United but then they don’t necessarily support the team,” he says in a follow-up interview in his office in Lomas de Chapultepec, the leafy, hilly neighborhood that’s home to many of Mexico City’s business elite. “Economics are important, I get that, but you have to root for the team you own in order to understand how much it hurts to lose. That’s fundamental.”

Azcarraga’s comments come as sports teams are increasingly being viewed as an asset class by private equity funds. Clubs including Chelsea FC, Atletico Madrid, Manchester City, and AC Milan all have links to private equity. 

Read More on the Business of Football:

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After the men’s match, Azteca Stadium is closed for a multimillion-dollar renovation ahead of the 2026 World Cup. Mexico, Canada and the US will share hosting duties, but Azteca will be the venue for the very first game. 

Founded in 1916, Club America has won more titles than any other Mexican team. In 1959, Azcarraga’s father bought the team, and immediately set about building a stadium worthy enough for a World Cup. El Tigre, as he was known, was a legendary figure, known for expanding Televisa into a business empire and using his media power to exert a heavy hand on politics. 

The stadium he commissioned was designed by renowned architect Pedro Ramirez Vazquez, whose portfolio included other iconic buildings in Mexico City like the Anthropology Museum and the congressional palace. 

First opened in 1966, Azcarraga acknowledges the stadium is outdated, with add-ons and repairs that have given the old building a patchwork feel over the years. The renovation will increase seating to about 87,000, along with new locker rooms, bathrooms and dining areas.

“I’ve been asked why we chose to not tear it down,” Azcarraga says of the Azteca. “But I firmly believe stadiums have a heart and soul. They’re built with stories of thousands of fans who have lived unforgettable experiences there. There’s so much soccer history — Maradona, Pele, wins of our national team. It’s not just because my father built it.”

Ollamani is funding the stadium renovation partially through sponsorships and naming rights, and the company is making substantial progress toward its financing goals, Azcarraga says. He’s not ready to say which bidder will get its name on the stadium, but he notes there are lots of opportunities for smaller companies to sponsor sections of the stadium or parts of the fan experience.

While the stadium is getting its facelift, the men’s and women’s clubs will play at another venue — a new challenge as they try to build on this season’s success. Azcarraga attributes at least some of Ollamani stock’s rally to the club’s performance on the pitch, but he says the company is built to succeed even when the team doesn’t. 

“We’re very institutional and responsible,” he says. “The fundamentals will always be there.”

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