When news of a potential sale first broke early in November, FSG provided the following statement to the ECHO: “There have been a number of recent changes of ownership and rumours of changes in ownership at EPL clubs and inevitably we are asked regularly about Fenway Sports Group’s ownership in Liverpool.
“FSG has frequently received expressions of interest from third parties seeking to become shareholders in Liverpool. FSG has said before that under the right terms and conditions we would consider new shareholders if it was in the best interests of Liverpool as a club.
“FSG remains fully committed to the success of Liverpool, both on and off the pitch.”
Here we take a look at what has been said so far, why FSG may be selling, the view of Jurgen Klopp – and who could potentially buy the club…
Manchester United have been warned by Michael Moritz that their financial demands for selling the club are ‘widely unrealistic’. Moritz co-wrote a book with friend Sir Alex Ferguson back in 2015.
Moritz wrote for The Times: “What would you pay for a £583million business with few growth prospects and £81m of EBITDA, the slippery benchmark used by buyout firms to value prospective investments?
“In most industries it would be between 10 and 15 times or, in this case, £800m to £1.2bn. If, however, you are putting a football team on the block and you are a group of absentee owners, as is the case with Manchester United and its dividend-rich Glazer siblings, you would encourage rumours that the business is worth £6bn.”
November 30 marked 12 years since Martin Broughton left his role as temporary chairman of Liverpool after helping FSG navigate their way through the first few months at Anfield.
Now, months on from their unsuccessful attempt to land Chelsea, HBSE have been linked with Liverpool, with Broughton and his existing relationship with the Reds and their owners strongly linked with a role in any interest.
The ECHO were informed by US financial sources earlier this month that HBSE were “mulling their options” when it came to Liverpool, assessing their position but stopping short of any formal talks. It was understood that Broughton was in their thought process should they decide to proceed.
A number of names have been discussed as potential buyers of Liverpool, with some seemingly more realistic than others. FSG, who have been at the helm at Anfield for the past 12 years, have expanded their search for investment, something they tasked major American banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to lead on last year, to welcome expressions of interest around a full sale of the club.
FSG’s move has now been followed by the Glazer family at Manchester United, who themselves have stated that they are on the lookout for investment but also open to giving up their controlling stake in the Old Trafford side.
With two of world sport’s most iconic teams up for sale at the same time it has understandably sparked much interest, with plenty of names with deep pockets linked to the Reds over the past fortnight, from US investment funds, to Indian billionaires, to sovereign wealth funds.
PSG chief Al-Khelaifi told the Financial Times that the 15 per cent stake that was being made available for purchase was based on a valuation of the club at €4bn (£3.5bn), a figure that would place it higher that what Liverpool were deemed to be seeking.
That comes despite PSG playing in a smaller market league with far smaller media rights, not owning their own stadium and having a balance sheet that saw them lose £320m in their most recent financial year, not helped by carrying the burden of a wage bill that includes the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar Jr and Lionel Messi. PSG revenues also were far short of what Liverpool are expected to post, the Reds likely to see revenues of £600m against a profit of around £70m when their accounts are published in early 2023, while PSG saw revenues of £480m for their most recent financials.
With PSG providing their own clear valuation of what they feel they are worth, FSG may be emboldened to hold out for more from any would-be suitor given how much more they have to offer for the price.
After the rumours in late November of potential interest in Liverpool from the private sector in Qatar, CBS sports reporter Ben Jacobs posted an update on his understanding of the situation on Twitter.
Writing on November 27, he said: “Understanding on links between Liverpool & Qatar is potential investors are only in the thought process. Very early and exploratory stages. QSI not involved in any capacity (even in a supportive role). Their focus is on PSG and potentially bringing in a new minority investor in 2023.”
QSI is Qatar Sports Investments, a subsidiary of the sovereign wealth fund in Qatar which is known as the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA). QSI owns French giants PSG, and has a minority stake in Portuguese club Braga.
Liverpool have reportedly held talks with two Middle East consortiums in relation to a potential takeover, according to reports emerging on November 27.
The Daily Mail has revealed representatives from consortiums in Saudi Arabia and Qatar have expressed an interest in acquiring the club. It is understood the two groups in question are private companies and not state-owned.
It is added the Reds are ‘in discussions’ with a buyer from the United States, whose identity is not divulged in the report.
The Premier League have no plans to introduce changes to their owners and directors’ test to prevent a Saudi investor taking over at Liverpool, according to the Telegraph.
Fenway Sports Group made clear their desire to seek further investment over a fortnight ago, with confirmation from chairman Tom Werner since that the American Group are open to a full sale.
On Wednesday, the Saudi Arabian sports minister admitted that the Saudi Arabian government would “definitely support” private sector bids for the Reds and Manchester United – also put up for sale recently.
Premier League clubs are yet to agree on the full terms of the new owners and directors’ test, but the report states that ‘its current draft will not preclude individuals on the basis of the political or human rights’ record of their country of origin.’
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters detailed how the league had consulted with Amnesty International over introducing a ‘subjective’ human rights element to the test, but there is thought to be little appetite for such. Any Saudi-backed takeovers will require the same assurances that Newcastle United had to provide, that being that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would not be the owner of the club.
The sports minister of Saudi Arabia has stated that the Saudi Arabian government would “definitely support” private sector bids for Liverpool and Manchester United.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal said that there was a lot of “interest and appetite” in the two clubs, both of which have seen their owners open themselves up to either part investment or a full sale over the past two weeks.
Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group expanded their search for investment through an equity sale to a willingness to listen to offers for the club a fortnight ago. It was a move followed by the Glazer family at United on Tuesday.
Numerous potential bidders have been linked with Liverpool over the past fortnight, from US private equity firms to Indian billionaires, although no firm proposals are believed to have been presented to FSG, for whom Mike Gordon is acting as the lead on sourcing investment and managing an interest in a full takeover.
“From the private sector, I can’t speak on their behalf, but there is a lot of interest and appetite and there’s a lot of passion about football,” said Al Faisal.
“It’s the most-watched league in Saudi and the region and you have a lot of fans of the Premier League. We will definitely support it if any [Saudi] private sector comes in, because we know that’s going to reflect positively on sports within the kingdom.
“But if there’s an investor willing to do so and the numbers add up, why not?”
Julian Ward will leave his role as Liverpool sporting director at the end of the season – with the Reds considering an overhaul of their transfer operations.
Ward has taken the shock decision having only succeeded Michael Edwards in the key position last summer after spending 18 months as his assistant. It is understood Liverpool are surprised and disappointed at Ward signalling his intention to quit, but are mindful they have been informed with sufficient time to determine a possible successor.
The decision of Ward to quit represents the latest significant change behind the scenes at Liverpool. Owners Fenway Sports Group confirmed earlier this month they are exploring a possible sale of the club, with Mike Gordon taking a step back from the day-to-day running of the club and Liverpool CEO Billy Hogan assuming increased responsibilities.
And Liverpool will now use Ward’s imminent exit as an opportunity to consider which model will be the most effective in supporting the future football operations – including transfers – at the club. Jurgen Klopp, who signed a new deal in April to extend his Reds commitment to 2026, will be part of the process, with Hogan also involved.
Potential buyers of Liverpool could be lured to Manchester United instead, because of their huge global fanbase, according to The Times.
Liverpool are used to going head-to-head with their East Lancs rivals, but on this occasion the action is happening off the pitch, with English football’s two most successful clubs both looking to attract billionaires to invest in them or buy them outright.
United owners the Glazers announced on Tuesday that they were open to investment or even a complete sale, just two weeks after Liverpool’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, declared their intention to do exactly the same.
The Merseyside Reds have enjoyed more success on the pitch than their Manchester counterparts in recent seasons, but after three decades of unrelenting success, United can boast huge global appeal, making the asset sale race an intriguing one. The Red Devils claim to have 1.1billion fans across the world.
The Glazers are believed to be looking for anywhere between £6-8billion to let go off their Premier League asset, dwarfing the reported £4billion FSG are asking to pass on ownership of Liverpool.
The issue for both clubs is that they will likely be marketing their offering to the same mega-rich suitors. Sir Jim Ratcliffe, a United fan, is one name in the mix who has already ruled out a move for Liverpool, but tech giants Amazon and Meta have already been linked with the Red Devils.
The Times report suggests that Liverpool’s Manchester rivals could be more likely to sell to non-American groups, such as representatives from the Middle East. It also accepts that the Glazers’ move to sell has been prompted not only by the failure of the doomed European Super League but also by FSG’s decision to cash in their chips on Liverpool now.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe will reportedly bid to buy Manchester United after the Glazers formally put the club up for sale.
That’s according to the Independent, who are reporting that Ratcliffe, a Manchester United fan, is ready to launch a bid to buy the Old Trafford club – although he is keen not to pay over the odds. The Glazer family will reportedly seek buyers prepared to pay between £6billion and £8billion.
On the day that the club cancelled Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract, the Glazers released a statement saying that they were trying to find new investment, either to acquire a share of the club, or buy it outright, which would end their 17-year ownership.
It was also confirmed that United have appointed the Raine Group, an American bank that found a buyer for Chelsea this year, to be United’s advisers and another bank, Rothschild and Co, who will advise the Glazer family.
Read the full story HERE.
When Chelsea were put up for sale earlier this year as a result of sanctions placed upon former owner Roman Abramovich it kick started a bidding war the likes of which English football had never seen before.
Teams in the so-called ‘big six’ of the Premier League hit the market very rarely. The tenure of ownership among Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur before the Todd Boely-led consortia acquired the Stamford Bridge club stood at a cumulative 97 years, an average length of ownership across those teams of 16 years.
The sale of Chelsea to Boehly, Clearlake Capital and Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss closed at around £2.5bn, with a further £1.75bn committed to funding infrastructure development projects at the club. That deal was finalised in May, bringing an end to 19 years of Abramovich’s spell in London, an era that changed the landscape of the English game forever.
It is a little over a fortnight since Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group were revealed to have opened themselves up to offers to take the club off their hands. While the initial stance, confirmed by well placed sources in the US to the ECHO, is one that is more open to continuing as custodians of the football club and selling an equity stake, the fact that the owners would be willing to sell the club shows how buoyant they feel the market is, with sports proving a remarkably resilient asset class despite the macro-economic landscape at present.
On Tuesday evening it was revealed that Manchester United’s deeply unpopular owners, the Glazer family, who had acquired the club via a leveraged buyout back in 2005 and continued to plunge it further into debt while the club failed on the pitch and investment into infrastructure was not forthcoming, were also open to offers.
Like FSG, United’s owners are open to both offers of an equity sale or a full takeover, but it is understood that they are leaning towards the latter given the major need for them to raise funds for a crucial redevelopment of a dilapidated Old Trafford and the continued financing of the club in the transfer market to try and return it to former glories that have been absent since Sir Alex Ferguson retired as manager back in 2013.
Read the full story from Dave Powell, our Business of Football writer, HERE.
The ECHO has learned that senior figures at Anfield were stunned when the news of a willingness to sell was made public on November 7. It is thought that FSG had hoped to quietly explore their options before it was reported by The Athletic that the owners were searching not only for external investment but also for the possibility of an outright buyer.
It’s been suggested the quiet attempts to survey the landscape was done so without explicit knowledge of some executive-level Liverpool employees in a move that bore a resemblance to the European Super League debacle that was foisted upon those inside the club itself in April 2021.
There is also a feeling that now is the right time to capitalise from the owners’ perspective. Anfield will play host to regular crowds of 61,000 from next season, while the AXA Training Centre – a £50m facility that Liverpool believe rivals any other in Europe – is barely two years old and the club have won every top-level trophy available to them since June 2019.
FSG will know that valuations are likely to continue to rise and by selling Liverpool now they would be leaving a considerable amount of money on the table. That’s why one prospect that is being given consideration is the potential for someone to acquire the club on a piecemeal basis, raising capital for FSG via a stake sale that may allow them to either free up funds to aid the very pressing need to address their requirements in the transfer market, or potentially to see them cash out a portion of their shareholding for growth prospects elsewhere. That, over time, would allow for someone else to acquire the club bit by bit and also allow for FSG to realise the financial benefits of continued rising values.
Paul Gorst and Dave Powell have the latest in this special FSG report
A potential buyer for Liverpool is yet to be found, though it may prove to be no bad thing for FSG to bide their time over the sale of the club.
It is understood that there is no grand plan that would be financed from a Liverpool sale, more a case of FSG weighing up just where the club sits in the current market and assessing how much further growth, and at what kind of pace, may still be to come further down the tracks. For them to check out now they would likely be leaving money on the table, with valuations still on the incline despite the macro-economic pressures that exist, with sports proving to be one of the most resilient of asset classes over the past three years.
The ECHO understands that while there are interested parties, there are no serious talks with any party at present and that FSG remain relaxed over the situation, with no urgency to part company with the Reds, whose Forbes valuation comes in at around £3.74bn.
The lack of urgency likely stems from the fact that they don’t have an immediate need to find capital to fund their growth in other areas, with the NFL off limits for them as a group for now and the NBA still yet to make a decision on when, or indeed if, it will add two more teams.
Dave Powell has more, here.
PSG COULD FOLLOW LIVERPOOL AND FSG MOVE
A fortnight on from Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group opening themselves up to expressions of interest in the club, Paris Saint-Germain are following a similar path.
FSG engaged the services of US banking giants Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs last year to begin the search for outside investment into the Reds, with that search now expanded to allow for interest in a full takeover of the club that FSG have owned since 2010.
But the Reds, while opening the door to a potential sale, remain on the lookout for minority stakeholders and sources well placed in the US told the ECHO that it was a case of FSG “testing the waters” to find out where Liverpool sat in the marketplace, something that Liverpool chairman Tom Werner backed up when he told the Boston Globe last week that it was “business as usual” and that they were “exploring a sale” with little urgency behind that process.
Across the Channel another club is now on the lookout for fresh investment with French newspaper L’Equipe reporting that Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), the owners of big spending Paris Saint-Germain, are on the lookout for minority investors, stopping short of a full sale of the club helmed by Nasser Al-Khelaifi.
The report claimed that QSI are looking at potentially selling as much as 15 per cent of the club to an unnamed American investment fund, a move that would bring fresh capital into a club that have come under UEFA scrutiny in recent years for their wild spending that has seen them stack out their team with the likes of Neymar Jnr, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi, among others.
L’Equipe also reported that Al-Khelaifi had indicated that a bid of €4bn (£3.48bn) had already come in for the club, a figure that, if correct, would give some indication as to where FSG see the value of Liverpool in the marketplace, with the ECHO understanding that a figure of $4bn (£3.4bn) had been viewed as the kind of sum that would see a conversation initiated between any interested parties, provided that they were found to be agreeable to FSG.
FOUR POSSIBLE SALE SCENARIOS OUTLINED BY BOSTON GLOBE JOURNALIST
Boston Globe journalist Michael Silverman has outlined the four possible scenarios that could unfold as Fenway Sports Group explore further investment and a potential full sale of Liverpool.
The weekend saw Reds chairman Tom Werner admit for the first time that a full sale of the club is being considered by FSG, but caveated the news with an admission that there is no urgency to sell up and move on. Reports then ruled out multi-billionaire Steve Ballmer, suggesting he is not looking to add any more sports teams to his portfolio.
And speaking over the weekend, Silverman – who has been closely reporting on this story from Boston – suggested any major developments will likely take some time, and he also played out four possible ways that any investment or takeover bids could run.
“I believe there’s four scenarios,” he told BBC Radio Merseyside. “One is someone just buys the club outright, another is someone buys a minority share now and over the years that becomes a majority share. Or, they simply get new partners who invest in the club, and Fenway Sports Group retains majority control. Or, they simply don’t sell at all.
“Maybe there’s a fifth scenario, and I’m not quite sure what that would be, but from everything I’ve heard and other members of the media have reported, everything is on the table. Yes, it’s very much in the early days, it doesn’t at all feel as if anything is imminent or about to happen.
“And as far as what the outcome is, you can read between the lines that whenever someone from Fenway Sports Group decides to speak publicly, you have to wonder why are they doing this, and why are they doing this now? From everything that’s been out there, they’re early in the exploration stage and they want to explore every single option, see what’s out there, so that’s where we are at this moment.”
STEVE BALLMER ‘STANCE’ ON LIVERPOOL SALE EMERGES FROM NEW REPORTS IN USA
Multi-billionaire Steve Ballmer is not interested in adding any further sports teams to his portfolio, according to reports in the US.
Ballmer, whose £66bn net worth derived from his stock options in Microsoft, where he served as CEO between 2000 and 2014, has been linked with a potential move to acquire Liverpool after it emerged that owners Fenway Sports Group were open to selling the club for the right price, although also welcoming minority investment.
Ballmer, 66, has been the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers NBA team since 2014 and told Los Angeles Times reporter Sam Farmer recently that he had no interest in owning any further teams.
Addressing the Liverpool rumour on Twitter, Farmer said: “When I sat down with Ballmer recently and asked if he would be interested in buying any other sports franchises he said no.
“And it was a definitive no. He said he already spends enough time focused on the Clippers and now building a new arena for them. Said he’s not interested in devoting time to another team.”
Ballmer is one of a number of names to have been linked with a potential move for the Reds, with US firm Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment and Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani among those to be mentioned. The ECHO understands that the former has an interest in the Reds but have not made a final decision on their next move and no talks have been held, while well placed sources have stated that it would be an unlikely scenario for them to acquire Liverpool. Ambani’s representatives at his Reliance Industries firm have said that he is not interested in a bid, according to reports in the Indian media.
WERNER ADMITS FULL SALE POSSIBLE
Liverpool chairman Tom Werner has admitted Fenway Sports Group Liverpool are exploring the possibility of a full sale of the club.
Earlier this month, the American group released a statement confirming they were open to further external investment and the Reds’ owners have also instructed two major US banks in Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to explore how much appetite there is for an outright change of hands at Anfield.
In a latest update issued by Werner on 18 November, he has opened the door to an outright sale.
“We’re exploring a sale, but there’s no urgency, no time frame for us, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s business as usual,” he is quoted as saying in the Boston Globe. “One outcome could be our continued stewardship for quite a while.”
MACANTHONY’S ‘£200-250m’ TRANSFER THEORY
Chairman of League one club Peterborough United, Darragh MacAnthony believes FSG have decided to cash in on Liverpool due to not wanting to oversee a significant outlay in the midfield department.
With Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner and Naby Keita both out of contract in the summer and the likes of Jordan Henderson, Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara ageing, reinforcements in this area of the pitch will be required at the end of the current campaign.
Conducting such business is likely to come at great expense, particularly given names as Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham are being suggested as potential options.
Providing his theory on why FSG are looking for a way out at Anfield, MacAnthony said on his Hard Truth podcast in mid November: “No surprise, no shock. At the end of the day, if you’re the owner of Liverpool, you’re looking at a midfield that’s going to cost £200-250million to fix because you’ve let these windows go and let these players age – and you haven’t replenished in those areas.
“What would three centre-midfielders for Liverpool, who want to be in the Champions League and competing for titles, cost nowadays? Seventy-to-eighty million? To get proper ones, you want Declan Rice, you want Bellingham and whoever else. Fenway, to be fair to them, maybe they’re just being honest and are saying we need help so we sell a percentage of the club, we get some bigger money people in and can go and do that.”
FSG BREAK SILENCE AMID ‘A LOT OF INTEREST’
Fenway Sports Group have declared there has been “a lot of interest” in potential new partners as they seek fresh investment in Liverpool.
And the Reds owners have suggested they would consider a gradual takeover of the club in their first public comments since announcing they were open to selling the Reds.
Several parties have already been linked with an interest in Liverpool, the latest being Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment. And Sam Kennedy, an FSG partner who is also CEO of the Boston Red Sox and Fenway Sports partner, has provided an update on the process, which is being managed by FSG president Mike Gordon.
“There has been a lot of interest from numerous potential partners considering investment into the club,” said Kennedy in quotes that emerged on 17 November. “It is early days in terms of exploring possibilities for possible investment into Liverpool.
“Mike Gordon has done an extraordinary job of leading the club for the past decade-plus. He will be taking a step back from that role and (Liverpool CEO) Billy Hogan will be taking on more and more. Billy’s someone we’re particularly proud of in the Red Sox front office, he grew up in our organisation.”
“Great companies grow by adding value to their business,” added Kennedy. “One way to increase that value from time to time is to sell assets or add investors. Does that mean FSG is going to sell Liverpool? I do not know. It’s John Henry’s, Tom Werner’s and Mike Gordon’s job to responsibly run Fenway Sports Group and they felt this was an ideal time to explore possible opportunities for investment into the club.”
HARRIS BLITZER DEAL GAINING TRACTION AMID MARTIN BROUGHTON LINK
Could two American billionaires provide the answer to FSG’s investment search? As first mentioned by the ECHO on November 7, David Blitzer and Josh Harris both own 18 per cent of Crystal Palace but were part of the race to acquire Chelsea earlier this year, a move that, if successful, would have seen them divest their interest in Palace due to a conflict of interest.
But talk of a possible move for Liverpool by the pair is now gaining traction. The duo also has a familiar face they can call on. Harris’ wealth stands at around £5bn, with the HBSE interest in Chelsea earlier in the year done alongside a consortium featuring Sir Martin Broughton, former Liverpool chairman and key man in FSG’s early days at Anfield, and Lord Sebastian Coe.
Any potential involvement of Broughton is likely to be greeted warmly by FSG, after the one-time Liverpool chairman helped secured the sale of the club to John Henry’s consortium in the first place.
Here is the latest on Harris Blitzer from Dave Powell.
HARRIS BLITZER CHIEF GIVES OWNERSHIP CLUES
Sources in the US have told the ECHO that there is interest in potentially exploring a move for Liverpool by HBSE, although no discussions have taken place and it is a case of them ‘mulling their options’ at present. Other well placed sources have said that while there may be interest, the lack of urgency from FSG chief John Henry to part with Liverpool and the fact that they are exploring their own options, allied with a price tag that will be considerably higher than the £2.5bn that Chelsea went for, means an HBSE deal would be unlikely.
HBSE were part of the bidding process for Chelsea earlier this year, losing out to Todd Boehly, Clearlake Capital and Hansjorg Wyss’s consortium. Part of the HBSE bid was former Liverpool chairman Sir Martin Broughton, a man who spent the early months of FSG’s reign helping them to make the transition from the former regime of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, as well as Michael Klein, a Wall Street financier who was key in the deal-making process that saw FSG acquire Liverpool in the first place. Also involved was former London 2012 Olympics chief Lord Sebastian Coe and Indian entrepreneur and owner of the Sacramento Kings NBA team, Vivek Ranadive.
There is no suggestion that any of those involved in the Chelsea bid with HBSE would be party to any Liverpool interest, although the Broughton link has remained strong.
FENWAY SPORTS GROUP ‘SWAMPED WITH OFFERS’
Fenway Sports Group are being “swamped” with offers to buy Liverpool Football Club, according to reports.
Last week, David Ornstein from The Athletic broke the news that the American Group are seeking further support from third-party investors and were not against the complete sale of the club, with a sales presentation having recently been assembled.
Following the sale of Chelsea earlier this year, plenty of American groups and consortiums who staked their claim to acquire the west London club have been linked with a potential purchase of the Anfield club.
However, in mid-November the Mirror were reporting that there has been stern interest from the Middle East as FSG have been “swapped” with offers. They also report that the most recent point of interest has come from Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani.
Ambani was named the tenth richest person on the planet for 2022, and has a net worth of roughly $90.7bn.
The 65-year-old owns the cricket side Mumbai Indians and helped set up the first major football league in his country, the Indian Super League.
MUKESH AMBANI ‘STATEMENT’ CLARIFIES POSITION ON LIVERPOOL
On the other hand…Indian multi-billionaire Mukesh Ambani is not in the race to purchase Liverpool, according to reports in his home country.
On Sunday 13 November a report emerged in the Mirror that claimed Ambani had approached Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group over acquiring their shareholding and taking over the Reds.
Ambani, the eighth richest man in the world with a fortune estimated to be around £90bn, was linked with a bid for the Reds back in 2009, something that was denied at the time by both his office and then Liverpool chief executive Christian Purslow.
The Mirror reported that Ambani had revived his interest in purchasing the club after owners FSG opened themselves up to a potential full sale last week, a development first reported by the Athletic, with claims of an asking price of around £4bn mooted.
But on 14 November, major Indian media outlet ABP News claimed that a representative of Ambani’s Mumbai-based Reliance Industries firm has branded the reports as ‘fake’ and that the 65-year-old is not in the race to acquire the club.
‘SECRET TALKS’ AT A DISCOUNTED PRICE?
Fenway Sports Group are reportedly willing to consider offers below Liverpool’s current valuation in order to negotiate the sale of the club, according to a 13 November report.
Back in May, the Reds were valued at $4.45 billion by the American business magazine Forbes. Meanwhile, Premier League counterparts Chelsea were sold for an initial $3bn, suggesting that the Anfield club could be worth in excess of $4bn.
However, the Mail on Sunday is reporting that the American group – led by John W. Henry – could sanction a sale if they receive offers of $3bn; adding that sources have told the publication that FSG has been engaged in “secret talks” with another American group over a potential sale, with an approach made ‘ several weeks ago’.
MIKE GORDON TAKES A STEP BACK
Mike Gordon, the main link between the powers that be at Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group and Reds boss Jurgen Klopp, is understood to be transferring some of his job responsibilities to CEO Billy Hogan.
According the Boston Globe, a newspaper that FSG chief John Henry owns privately, FSG’s third in command, Gordon, is taking a step back from what had been a hands on role with the Reds for more than a decade, although the shifting of some of his role onto Hogan is not related a potential sale of the team after it emerged earlier this week that the owners were open to both investment and a potential full takeover.
Gordon has been a major link between FSG and Liverpool but has, the Globe reported on 11 November, sought to step away from the day-to-day at the club and pass more onto Hogan, someone with a growing reputation inside FSG. Sources told the Globe that the move was a ‘natural evolution’ with Hogan set to take up the kind of prominence at Liverpool that Sam Kennedy does in the same role with the Boston Red Sox.
Jurgen Klopp is hopeful Fenway Sports Group’s plan to seek external investment for Liverpool can lead to greater resources in the transfer market.
And the Reds boss believes Liverpool’s stable footing off the field means any potential investors or new ownership will be getting a club on the cusp of becoming an even bigger name in the world of sport.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of the home match against Southampton, he said: “In the structure we had we, obviously we were able to spend money, but it was always that we had to look at what did we earn? Are we around where we will come out at the end? That was always clear.
“We all know the two biggest transfers in the past – this year was Darwin, which was in between – were Alisson and Virgil (van Dijk). We all knew how it happened. We got money from Barcelona and spent it wisely I would say, so that is the situation.
“For me, how we did it so far brought us to where we are, that is all fine, but fresh money is no mistake, let me say it like this. Nothing gets cheaper. There is an inflation rate for all of us but in football as well.
“Yes, sometimes you have to spend. We are really happy to give all our young kids a chance and I am so positive about the impact they will have in the future, whenever that starts.
“Like Harvey Elliott now, Stefan Bajcetic, Cavlin Ramsay, Ben Doak, Bobby Clark, they are all interesting but from time to time you have to throw in proven quality. In an ideal world they are young as well! Or at least not 35.
“So yes, from time to time you have to take some risks and we will see. I have no idea what will happen, but I am positive about it. In the end if it is not positive, I can start worrying but I just think everything will be fine.”
In further comments in early November, Klopp voiced his approval of FSG’s decision to seek additional investment and labelled the Americans’ judgment as a “good idea”.
“What I read was they are looking for investors and that makes sense,” he said after the League Cup victory over Derby County. “A good idea, I like that. It didn’t distract the preparation at all. The players didn’t ask me but if they want to ask me I can tell them everything.
“For me it means nothing. Whatever happens, I really like how we work together with our owners but if that would change I’m committed to the club obviously. As far as I know they are looking for investors and I thought that makes sense.
“First and foremost Chelsea got sold, that’s how I understand it. They are looking for investors. The situation is completely different: Chelsea had to get sold because their owner was in trouble.
“Let me sum it up like this, there was a bit of urgency in the situation. We don’t have that here – not at all. For me is it important while the process – whatever it is – is happening we keep going and keep planning.
“These types of things take time, I’m not an expert in this, but whatever happens – and if someone comes in or whatever – until then a lot of things can happen and in that time we have to keep going.”
He added: “Not only football-wise, in between as well and I will make sure that will be the case. That is all. At the moment nothing happened, it is just news which we knew and no-one had a heart attack when we got the news and thought ‘Oh my God, how can we carry on?’
“It’s a decision and it’s fine. We work really close together with FSG, it was a great relationship until now and it will not change Whatever happens we will see and we will deal with it.”
Who are the names currently being linked with the purchase of Liverpool? Earlier rumours from November:
While any sale is anticipated to be a lengthy process – unlike Todd Boehly’s speedy acquisition of Chelsea earlier this year due to the Government’s decision to freeze Roman Abramovich’s United Kingdom-based assets after his ties with the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin became common knowledge – the eye-watering recent valuation of the club, £3.6billion, according to Forbes in May 2022, means the pool of potential buyers will not be an extensive one.
STEPHEN PAGLIUCA AND PARTNERS
Stephen Pagliuca appears to be interested in adding a third sports institution to his ever-growing portfolio as he made a late bid, backed by a string of American-based business tycoons, to purchase Chelsea back in April.
Earlier this year, the Bostonian acquired a 55% stake in Serie A outfit Atalanta, adding to his role as co-chairman at NBA giants Boston Celtics.
But after making the final shortlist for the ownership of the Londoners – alongside the Ricketts family, Toddy Boehly and Sir Martin Broughton – Pagliuca vowed to invest heavily in the first-team squad at Stamford Bridge.
“Our first focus and goal is to make strategic investments to continue competing for championships and trophies,” said the former Burger King director.
“Ultimately, fans will see our commitment and, we hope, trust us to stay true to our values on and off the pitch. We understand the responsibilities that come with such an important sporting institution and hold ourselves accountable to the fans.”
The 67-year-old is also the chairman of Bain Capital, a private investment firm, that deals with over £150bn worth of assets.
Last Wednesday, The Athletic named Pagliuca as a “serious contender” to buy Liverpool due to his close ties with current owners FSG.
HARRIS BLITZER SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT/SIR MARTIN BROUGHTON
Business partners David Blitzer and Josh Harris could potentially rekindle a consortium involving familiar Anfield figure Sir Martin Broughton in pursuit to land Liverpool Football Club.
The billionaire duo, who own Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, currently own 18% of the Reds’ Premier League counterparts Crystal Palace – but earlier this year hinted that they would be willing to ditch their stake in the South London side to pursue their bid to purchase Chelsea.
“I love Crystal Palace, and people who know me well will know I love Crystal Palace,” said Blitzer. “But there are a handful of teams/brands out there on a global basis, and Chelsea is one of them. The opportunity to invest in that particular situation with a very small number of people, frankly, given it was a complicated situation, we were comfortable giving that our best shot.
“We would have had to divest our interest in Crystal Palace had that come through. If that had happened it would have been a really sad day in one sense, but again back to the investment part it would have been a really interesting investment in terms of what’s out there for Chelsea.”
With Harris boasting a wealth of roughly £5bn, HSBE joined forces with Broughton – who acted as stand-in chairman at Anfield in 2010 to broker the sale of the club to FSG – in a bid to acquire Chelsea this year alongside Olympian-turned-politician Lord Sebastian Coe.
HSBE also own American sports teams Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Devils.
If it’s big investment the Reds need then Steve Ballmer could be the man. The Microsoft CEO has been rumoured to be in the frame, although the concrete links remain thin on the ground at present.
Detroit-born Ballmer has a reported net worth of $86 billion (£73billion) and is the tenth richest person in the world, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire index.
The LA Clippers owner was recently declared the ‘richest owner in sport’ the eighth year on the run. Despite his obvious wealth, Ballmer is noted for undertaking a number of socially-conscious initiatives, such as funding groups to increase opportunities for ethnic minorities and donations to bring more gun control legislation.
Could he be a potential owner more in tune with Liverpool FC’s traditional values?
DUBAI INTERNATIONAL CAPITAL?
Due to the incomparable wealth of the Gulf states, and Liverpool’s recent eye-watering valuation, FSG’s welcoming of offers for the club will have no doubt alerted those in the Middle East.
Liverpool, of course, does have a history of potential investment from the Middle East with Dubai International Capital – a sovereign wealth fund – failing with a bid of approximately £300m back in 2007, prior to Tom Hicks and George Gillett acquiring the club from David Moores.
In early November, Arabian Business reported that investors in Dubai could be “eyeing a purchase” of Liverpool.
NOT IN THE FRAME
SIR JIM RATCLIFFE
Sir Jim Ratcliffe is someone who will seemingly not be getting his hands on the keys to Liverpool Football Club.
Standing as Britain’s richest man, Ratcliffe – who owns Ligue 1 side OGC Nice and Swiss Super League club FC Lausanne-Sport – ruled himself out of the running last week.
“Our position has developed since the summer and we are now focusing our efforts in Nice and raising our ambitions for the club to make them into a top tier club in France to compete with PSG,” a spokesperson told The Telegraph.
“This would represent much better value for our investment than buying one of the top-tier Premier League clubs.”
The 70-year-old has a reported net worth of over £8bn and expressed his desire to buy Manchester United after his bid to acquire Chelsea also proved to be unsuccessful. However, the Glazer family ruled out a potential sale of the 20-time Premier League champions
Ratcliffe is CEO of the Ineos Group- the fourth largest chemical engineering company on the planet – and owns the cycling team Ineos Grenadiers.
THE RICKETTS FAMILY
Another group who have distanced themselves from rumours linking them with a move for the six-time European champions is Chicago Cubs’ owners, the Ricketts family.
Americans Tom and Laura Ricketts also expressed interest in purchasing Chelsea earlier this year, and previously Tottenham Hotspur, and received backing from Ken Griffin and Dan Gilbert.
However, despite their net worth of roughly £5bn, the Ricketts ruled out any potential purchase.
“The Ricketts family will NOT be bidding on the Liverpool soccer team which recently went up for sale,” said a spokesman last week on behalf of the family.
RedBird Capital Partners, the New York-based investment fund, acquired an 11 per cent stake in FSG in March 2021 for $750m. They also completed a takeover of AC Milan in September for £1.1bn.
While their links to FSG are extensive and clear, the ECHO understands a push for full ownership of Liverpool is not currently on the agenda.