(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia’s $700 billion wealth fund and state oil firm Aramco are set to take control of several local football clubs, home to stars including Cristiano Ronaldo, as the kingdom bids to become a powerhouse in the world of professional sport.
The Public Investment Fund will get 75% stakes in four Saudi Pro League clubs — Al-Ittihad, Al-Ahli, Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal. The move’s aimed at attracting more investment and making the local league one of the top 10 globally. Separately, Aramco said it would take over Al-Qadisiyah, based in the eastern city of Khobar, near the company’s headquarters.
The government wants to quadruple the league’s annual revenue to $480 million by 2030. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has made sports a key plank of diversifying the economy from oil, shedding the kingdom’s conservative image and opening up more to tourism.
France’s Karim Benzema — considered one of the world’s best players — is set to join Al-Ittihad after leaving Real Madrid at the end of this season, according to multiple reports. The league already features Ronaldo, who joined this year on a contract reportedly worth $200 million a year, while Riyadh-based Al-Hilal is interested in signing Argentina’s Lionel Messi for as much as $400 million a year, according to reports.
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The PIF in 2021 led a consortium that acquired English Premier League football club Newcastle United for more than £300 million ($373 million) and the kingdom is considering a joint bid to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup, having witnessed the recent success of the tournament in Qatar.
The fund has also earmarked billions of dollars for its LIV Golf tour, attracting top players including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. Last year, it considered a $20 billion attempt to add Formula 1 motor racing to its growing portfolio of sports investments.
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