Rovell: Soccer’s $200M Game and the Last Stand of Derby County’s Melvyn Morris

Rovell: Soccer’s $200M Game and the Last Stand of Derby County’s Melvyn Morris article feature image
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Derby County FC.

  • Melvyn Morris, owner of Derby County Football Club, stands to make at least $200 million if his team can get promoted to the Premier League.
  • The only thing standing in his way is fellow Championship contender Aston Villa.

A win on Monday for Derby County and the business legacy of Melvyn Morris will have yet another incredible angle to it.

Morris dropped out of high school to somehow become a management consultant by 20. He founded a dating site, uDate, and navigated it though the dot com bust before cashing out. As chairman of King Digital, the company that made Candy Crush, he came away with more than $500 million.

And then, as a good, rich, savvy Englishman does, he started buying up pieces of a Championship division (English soccer’s second division) team with hopes of turning it into Premier League gold.

That team for Morris was Derby County, a team that played in the Premiership two out of the last 15 seasons and had lost this exact game to the Queens Park Rangers right before his involvement.

Yes, a win Monday against Aston Villa will assure Derby County of promotion and the roughly $200 million in guaranteed revenue that comes along with it. A loss and Morris likely sells.

Like so many other aspects of Morris’ career, he made a huge bet that his business would eventually win.

But time is running out. By most accounts, Morris is now losing roughly $4 million a month based on a huge payroll for a Championship League team. He doubled down by buying the stadium and made a gamble by hiring Frank Lampard, a legend in English soccer, as manager. It is Lampard’s first gig as a coach.

Unlike uDate or Candy Crush, Morris can’t deftly navigate his course. He just has to sit back and hope that his incredible run as a businessman continues in a win over Aston Villa.