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ECONOMY | 29-04-2023 08:32

Tech billionaire Marcos Galperín bets on growth of rugby in United States with Miami team

MercadoLibre billionaire Marcos Galperín and a group of Argentine friends and businessmen invest about US$6.5 million to found the Miami Sharks rugby team.

Billionaire Marcos Galperín briefly pondered pursuing a rugby career instead of leaving his native Argentina for university and ultimately founding Latin American e-commerce and payments powerhouse MercadoLibre Inc. 

Decades later, his passion for the game is becoming a side hustle of his vast fortune.

Galperín and a group of Argentine friends and businessmen invested about US$6.5 million to found the Miami Sharks. Galperín, who has a minority stake, said in an interview in Miami that the team will compete in US’ Major League Rugby.

“It’s a minor sport in the States. But it’s growing— when you look at what happened in soccer, soccer was a very small sport in the States 20 years ago and today it’s a big sport,” Galperín said in an empty nightclub before the franchise launch party started. “Apple just paid billions of dollars to broadcast Major League Soccer, right. And we think that something similar can happen with rugby in the next couple of decades.”

Galperín, who has a net worth of about US$5.8 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, pointed to the Inter Miami football team, which he estimated is probably worth close to US$1 billion from just US$20 million some years ago. He also noted the Rugby World Cup in 2031 that will be played in the United States.

Galperín said that while he spends a lot of time in Miami he doesn’t own any property there and will continue residing in Uruguay, where he’s lived for more than 20 years.

In the 15 minute chat, he said he was “proud” of MercadoLibre’s plans to hire an additional 13,000 people in 2023 and said that US regulators should act quicker to institute rules around cryptocurrencies. MercadoLibre shares have surged 50 percent this year and its market value stands at US$63.9 billion. The company “will continue to reinvest part of its profits” to favour growth, Galperín added.

“In the next 10 years, e-commerce and fintech will continue to thrive in the region,” he said of Latin America. “So we try to run our business regardless of whether the stock market is going up or down or interest rates are going up or down.”

by Anna Jean Kaiser & Daniel Cancel, Bloomberg

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