MLS Club LAFC Lands Record-Breaking $100 Million Naming Rights Pact With BMO

January 19, 2023


Months after hoisting its first-ever MLS Cup, the Los Angeles Football Club has claimed another massive victory. On Thursday, the club announced it had reached a naming rights agreement with banking giant BMO for its Exposition Park stadium. A source familiar with the matter tells Forbes the deal will pay $100 million over a 10-year period. A second source confirmed that it is the largest naming rights partnership in Major League Soccer history by average annual value.

“We're sold out for games, we get a bigger social media following, we have a bigger impact,” says Bennett Rosenthal, LAFC’s lead managing owner and a cofounder of alternative investment firm Ares Management
ARES
Corp. “More impressions from what we do on the pitch leads to tangible value for sponsors. Sponsors pay more for sponsorships. That leads to more revenues for us to reinvest in the club.”

In BMO, LAFC adds a partner well-versed in the sports world. The eighth-largest bank in North America by assets, $1.14 trillion in total, sponsors teams all over the U.S. and Canada including the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues, the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks and the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes. It also has partnerships with MLS’ Vancouver Whitecaps, CF Montréal and Toronto FC, which plays at BMO Field. BMO’s stock currently trades on the New York Stock Exchange and has a market cap of nearly $66 billion.

It also marks the end of a relatively short era for LAFC, which has had the Banc of California name on its building since the club began playing in 2018. The pact, which was initially agreed to in 2016, was set to pay LAFC $100 million over 15 years. Just four years later, with $87 million left on the balance, Banc of California agreed to a one-time $20.1 million fee to terminate the arrangement, according to an SEC filing. The stadium name remained the same in the interim.

“We went for a year without naming rights, and we actually beat budget anyway,” Rosenthal says. “But that's obviously a very positive statement for the growth of our club, and like I said, our ability to support the club with more capital and more investment and more revenues is all a virtuous cycle.”

The newly-dubbed BMO Stadium, which reportedly cost $350 million to build, opened in 2018 and seats 22,000. In addition to LAFC, it serves as the home venue for the NWSL’s Angel City FC. The LAFC corporate partnership team, led by senior vice president Kristen Kuhn and chief financial officer Stacy Johns, handled the contract and partnership negotiation with BMO from the team side.

Renaming the stadium is the first major move under Rosenthal’s tenure as lead managing owner. He took the post in January as part of a pre-planned transition that rotates the top spot between Rosenthal and LAFC’s other two managing owners, Apollo Global Management
APO
partner Larry Berg and Riot Games cofounder Brandon Beck every four years. LAFC boasts a slew of celebrity investors as well that include Will Ferrell, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Mia Hamm Garciaparra and Nomar Garciaparra.

“This sponsor [BMO] is very committed to football, which was great news,” Rosenthal says. “But they also saw the value as much or more than anybody in owning those naming rights.”



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