E-commerce firm Mercari Inc. announced Tuesday it has bought a controlling stake in the first-division Kashima Antlers soccer club, the most successful team in J. League history.
Mercari will acquire a 61.6 percent stake in Kashima Antlers F.C. Co., which operates the club, from Nippon Steel Corp. on Aug. 30 for about ¥1.6 billion.
The J. League’s board approved the transaction on Tuesday.
“We’re excited about being able to support the management of a leading soccer club in Japan,” Mercari Chief Operating Officer Fumiaki Koizumi said at a news conference in Tokyo.
The acquisition will help Mercari expand its customer base, Koizumi said. The company has been one of the sponsors of the Antlers since 2017.
The Antlers, the reigning Asian champions, are the most successful club since the founding of the J. League with eight top division titles.
The club, launched by Nippon Steel predecessor Sumitomo Metal Industries in 1991, will keep their home base in Kashima, Ibaraki Prefecture.
Kashima Antlers F.C. President Hiroshi Shono said that the deal comes as the environment surrounding the J. League is drastically changing.
“The club will change what needs to be changed while maintaining its tradition and philosophy,” Shono said.
The transaction will lower Nippon Steel’s stake in Kashima Antlers F.C. to 11 percent.
The Antlers date back to 1947, when its predecessor was founded by Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd., which is now part of Nippon Steel.