February 27, 2024

Maxsports

All Sports To The Max

How Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s success at Wrexham led to ownership stakes in Formula One

Not that long ago Ryan Reynolds was just one of Canada’s most popular movie actors and Rob McElhenney was known for creating a cult hit of a sitcom. 

Reynolds had a brand of gin, a stake in a low-cost cell phone carrier and his business interests extended to a few commercials on television.

It’s amazing what can happen within two years. 

The pair’s purchase of minnows Wrexham AFC in non-league football in England has made them some of the most astute – and popular – sports owners on the planet.

They produced a television series that showcased a football team that hadn’t played in the Football League in over a decade – opening the door to the club, the town, and its people to the world.

Wrexham owners Rob McElhenney (L) and Ryan Reynolds (R) have become more popular

Wrexham owners Rob McElhenney (L) and Ryan Reynolds (R) have become more popular

Canadian Hollywood star Reynolds is married to 35-year-old American actress Blake Lively

Canadian Hollywood star Reynolds is married to 35-year-old American actress Blake Lively

McElhenney is married to Kaitlin Olson and couple watched Wrexham together last season

McElhenney is married to Kaitlin Olson and couple watched Wrexham together last season

The actors splashed the cash to take their Wrexham team to celebrate success in Las Vegas

The actors splashed the cash to take their Wrexham team to celebrate success in Las Vegas

Their investment across the pond coupled with a spotlight on the English football pyramid attracted attention and new fans, as well as opening new doors for the Hollywood stars. 

Now, the two owners have become so popular that they’ve found a way to wriggle themselves into the elite boys club that is Formula One.

The two stars joined a consortium of investors – including RedBird Capital Partners, which owns AC Milan, and fellow actor Michael B. Jordan among others – to purchase a 24 percent stake in Alpine F1 Team.

While the F1 cost cap prevents the Enstone-based team from buying their way up the leaderboard, this purchase from a large group of Americans (plus the Canadian Reynolds) is further testament to the growth of the sport in the United States.

Formula One grand prix races have become marquee events in the country – with three held this season including the one already finished in Miami, and two to come in Austin, Texas and then Las Vegas.

But for Reynolds and McElhenney specifically, this is a sign that their growing sports enterprise could continue to be fruitful.

It all began with the purchase of Wrexham – a team that had gone into administration in the 2000s and hadn’t been in the Football League in over 10 years. 

After holding talks in September of 2020, the actors officially purchased the club in November of that year.

Pair of actors have now bought a small stake in Alpine F1 team, adding to their sports portfolio

Pair of actors have now bought a small stake in Alpine F1 team, adding to their sports portfolio

Reynolds starred in 20th Century Fox's Deadpool, playing the title character in two movies

Reynolds starred in 20th Century Fox’s Deadpool, playing the title character in two movies

Meanwhile co-owner McElhenney piled on 60lb for his role in It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia

Meanwhile co-owner McElhenney piled on 60lb for his role in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

Their success with Wrexham - and a popular TV show about the club - has opened up doors

Their success with Wrexham – and a popular TV show about the club – has opened up doors 

Following their purchase, the two produced a documentary series 'Welcome to Wrexham'

Following their purchase, the two produced a documentary series ‘Welcome to Wrexham’

That bid saw overwhelming support from the previous owners, the Wrexham Supporters Trust – where over 98 percent of the voters were in favor of the sale.

It was completed in February of 2021 – with the entire process being documented in the FX television documentary ‘Welcome to Wrexham’.

McElhenney, a star and producer of the sitcom ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’, took on an executive producer role alongside Reynolds in the documentary.

Speaking to Variety, the pair said they didn’t know what to expect when visiting the Welsh town, but decided that they would turn the focus of the series towards Wrexham and its people.

‘If you’re just reading the headlines, you probably think, “Oh, this show is going to be funny,”‘ Reynolds said. ‘”It’s gonna be a fish-out-of-water story about two schmucky showbiz morons going in, falling on their asses, learning as they go.” 

‘But the show literally does not center us. It centers the town.’

‘The truth is we didn’t know a f***ing thing when we went in there,’ Reynolds added

‘I really struggled at the beginning. There’s a moment in the series where I’m joking that I didn’t know that I had the option to not appear on camera all the time.’

The show became a smash hit for FX in the United States, as Americans became more and more interested in the team and the town.

Wrexham's Paul Mullin

Ryan Reynolds (L) and Wrexham goalkeeper Ben Foster (R)

Wrexham recruited players like Paul Mullin (L) and Ben Foster (R) to join them in a lower league

With those players, Wrexham won 34 matches, 111 points, and the National League title

With those players, Wrexham won 34 matches, 111 points, and the National League title

That coincided with success on the pitch – as Wrexham was able to offer bigger contracts to professional players to get them to help the club towards promotion out of non-league football.

Reynolds and McElhenney recruited the likes of Paul Mullin – who had been playing in League One – and convinced former Premier League shot stopper Ben Foster to come out of retirement.

As a result, Wrexham was able to earn promotion to the Football League off a 34 win campaign which saw them clinch the title with 111 points to their name.

Last season also saw Wrexham put up a great fight in the FA Cup – upsetting Coventry City to reach the fourth round where they forced a replay against Sheffield United but lost 3-1.

Now set up for a great adventure into the realm of professional football, Wrexham are primed for further promotion.

But that’s not the end of the sports journey for either of the club’s owners. In fact, one tried to branch out on his own.

The owners got Wrexham promoted back to professional football after two seasons in charge

The owners got Wrexham promoted back to professional football after two seasons in charge

Back in the early stages of the 2022-23 National Hockey League season, the family of Eugene Melnyk said they were looking to sell the Ottawa Senators.

Melnyk, who bought the Senators in 2003, died in March of 2022 after a long illness. His two daughters took ownership of the team and began to facilitate a sale.

Reynolds publicly announced his intentions to try and buy the team on an episode of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and took in a game in Ottawa the next day.

Senators fans, excited at the opportunity of a new owner after years of Melnyk’s poor results, cheered Reynolds’ name and chanted that he should buy the team.

After meeting with different consortiums – and even NHL commissioner Gary Bettman – Reynolds ended up pulling his bid in May.

The Senators were sold to Toronto billionaire Michael Andlauer for a record $1billion just weeks ago.

On an episode of The Tonight Show in November, Reynolds said he wanted to buy the Senators

On an episode of The Tonight Show in November, Reynolds said he wanted to buy the Senators

Reynolds even showed up to a game at Canadian Tire Centre, where he was met with cheers

Reynolds even showed up to a game at Canadian Tire Centre, where he was met with cheers

But despite the fans' wishes, Reynolds pulled his bid and the team was sold earlier in June

But despite the fans’ wishes, Reynolds pulled his bid and the team was sold earlier in June 

The two Wrexham owners have multiple different ventures they’re invested in outside the world of sports. 

Reynolds’ gin company, Aviation American gin, was purchased at a value of $610million back in August of 2020. The parent company of the cell phone carrier he was invested in, Mint Mobile, was purchased by T-Mobile in March at a value of $1.35bn. He continues to be associated with both brands – even under alternate ownership.

As for McElhenney, in addition to the multiple television shows he writes and produces for, he announced the launch of an entertainment-tech company, Adim, in June of 2022.

But it was their partnership, and their burgeoning success with Wrexham, that led to their purchase of a stake in an F1 team.

However, not everyone thinks their time working with the French outfit will be a success – with former owner Eddie Jordan saying the financial situation ‘doesn’t stack up’.

But Reynolds and McElhenney were not the only Hollywood personalities to buy the team. Michael B. Jordan, an actor spotted at many an F1 grand prix, will also expand his sports portfolio with the Alpine purchase.

Back in December of 2022, Jordan joined the consortium group headed up by Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley to purchase Premier League side AFC Bournemouth.

It’s not only part of a growing trend among Americans to invest in Euro-centric sports, but especially among the Hollywood elite. 

But they're not the only Hollywood stars joining Alpine as Michael B. Jordan was part of the bid

But they’re not the only Hollywood stars joining Alpine as Michael B. Jordan was part of the bid 

In December of 2022, Jordan (L) joined NHL owner Bill Foley (R) to purchase Bournemouth

In December of 2022, Jordan (L) joined NHL owner Bill Foley (R) to purchase Bournemouth 

Sports ownership has become increasingly popular and football is an easy way for many to wet their beaks. That includes in ‘soccer’ teams in the United States, where the likes of Will Ferrell, Matthew McConaughey, and Natalie Portman have bought in.

While they’re not the only celebrities to own a sports team, Reynolds and McElhenney are surely the most well associated with their ownership. 

That’s in part to the show and in part to how often they themselves promote the club. Opportunities have opened up for them – and the pair have taken those chances. More may arrive.

But these two may possibly be the most popular and well-liked sports owners in the world, right now. With the momentum they currently have, the possibilities may truly be endless.