Is Beckham a Steal at $250 Million?
That is the reported amount, at current exchange rates, that the Los Angeles Galaxy of America's Major League Soccer will pay the English "football" phenom David Beckham in a five-year deal.
The Galaxy, owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group, would normally only be able to pay $2 million a year to one of its players under league rules. But the league has an exception by which a team may designate one player to pay above that cap.
Clearly, Beckham is that one player. He is a 31-year-old midfielder whose ability to curl a ball from a dead spot 30 yards or more into the net was highlighted in the popular movie Bend It Like Beckham. A former captain of the England national team, he is the husband of Victoria Adams, Posh Spice of Spice Girls fame.
As USA Today once wrote, "Becks" is the most recognizable athlete in the worldeverywhere but in the United States, that is. Actually, though, he does have a soccer academy bearing his name based in Los Angeles.
"David transcends the sport and is a cultural icon," said league commissioner Don Garber.
Said Beckham: "I am proud to have played for two of the biggest clubs in football, and I look forward to the new challenges of growing the world's most popular game in a country that is as passionate about its sport as my own."
He will begin playing with the Galaxy in August. There he will pair with Landon Donovan, a heartthrobbish American soccer star.
Beckham's skills aren't what they once were when he played a crucial role in the late 1990s success of Manchester United in England's ultracompetitive Premier League. But even though he has been only a bit player this season at Real Madrid in Spain, there was still speculation in England that several teams would want his services. Even the venerable Italian team Inter Milan was rumored to be a suitor.
It is doubtful that the Galaxy is paying for his footwork alone. The New York Cosmos got a lot of buzz out of having Pelé and Dutch star Johann Cruyf on the field for them in the 1970s and early 1980s.
The business proposition here is broader than scoring goals. AEG, controlled by the reclusive billionaire Philip Anschutz ($7.8 billion is the Forbes estimate of his fortune), has multiple investments in entertainment and sports. It owns or has business relationships with several sports teamsincluding the Los Angeles Kings and Lakersand is a powerful force in entertainment with its operation of Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas and ownership of the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Perhaps Becks may find himself sitting next to Jack Nicholson courtside at Lakers games or introducing Céline Dion on stage.
And that is just the beginning. Anschutz also has investments in oil, energy, land, telecommunications, and the media. The promotional and marketing opportunities of a world-renowned sports icon like Beckham seem endlessat least until his youth runs out.
So, to answer the question, in an age when Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka gets $52 million to sign with the Boston Red Soxand how many people could identify him in a lineup?maybe the Galaxy got Becks cheap.