As Fenway Sports Group continue to evaluate their options regarding new investment at Liverpool FC, This Is Anfield speaks exclusively to one of the leading sources for developments on the story.
It’s been a month since news emerged that Liverpool were ‘up for sale,’ with FSG appointing banking giants Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to assist with the process of finding new buyers.
Just how that investment will arrive is still unclear, with Liverpool’s owners said to be open to all eventualities.
In recent days it’s been claimed that a partial sale could now be FSG’s preferred outcome, but much will depend on how negotiations develop with any forthcoming parties.
We saw in your most recent report that FSG are leaning towards a partial sale of Liverpool rather than a full sale. Is that still the case?
Yes, but five minutes after I heard that, the whole thing could have changed. All the coverage of this potential transaction has been a snapshot of what a particular journalist hears at any moment.
I think very much that all scenarios remain on the table. I haven’t heard anything since I’ve reported that.
You always have to be aware of why sources talk to journalists at this moment. Do you think they’re actually trying to send signals to would-be suitors? I don’t think so. The important talks are going on behind the scenes.
There have been reports in the UK that a full sale is still very much on the cards, with Saudi-Qatari and German consortiums linked with a possible takeover. Is that something you’re aware of?
Certainly. There are some great journalists covering this, and I’ve no doubt that they’re talking to everyone, from all over the world, and I’ve no doubt that they’re listening to offers for a full sale.
That certainly remains on the table. It’s great for them to have every scenario in play. It keeps everyone guessing. As we speak today, there are just so many scenarios that are still viable.
Why do you think FSG have decided now is the time to search for new investment?
Sure, they could alter their entire financial philosophy and team building and team spending philosophy, but I just don’t see that on the cards.
If you look at their actions over the last year and a half, seeking new capital, RedBird Capital’s investment being a significant one obviously, I think they’ve realised now that they need now to either sell the team or get significant new equity in order to spend on the team.
I don’t think they’ve given up on their ability to compete, they just see that, if they’re going to compete, they’ll need more capital to do so. I think that’s very much a part of why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Do you think the Glazers’ decision to put Manchester United up for sale could have an effect on FSG’s search for new investors?
You just never know. I think Man United is probably more cryptic, believe it or not, than Liverpool. The last time Liverpool fans saw John Henry speak was the video tape after the Super League venture. I don’t think the Glazers speak much at all. They’re pretty hidden as well.
I don’t know whose hands forced whose, but obviously valuations are skyrocketing, and all the guys are pretty savvy business people, and what a time, I guess, to find out what your franchise is really worth.
If it’s a partial sale, why would that appeal to FSG? Would anyone that buys a minority share now eventually have a majority share in LFC?
That’s just one scenario that I heard could be the case.
Say a minority partner emerges, with an understanding that over the course of time they’ll eventually buy more shares, and Fenway Sports Group would relinquish majority control.
The other scenario is that a minority partner comes along, I guess in a similar way to RedBird, and have a significant stake that allows Fenway Sports Group to continue as they are, just with more cash on hand to make more capital improvements and especially to build the team.
Whether or not this happens in time for the January transfer window, we shall see.
You’ve also reported that Mike Gordon is stepping back from his role as FSG president to focus on a possible sale, why is that significant?
It’s interesting. Speaking to someone who likes to be in the shadows, Mike Gordon has been very active, privately so, as the main go-between in a triangle between him, Jurgen Klopp and Michael Edwards until Edwards left.
If you talk to Liverpool people, Mike’s influence is vast, and I know Klopp speaks and thinks very highly of him, so to have him depart, that’s a big change.
His background is in investment and investment banking, and he’s overseeing this potential transaction. A brand new role, obviously very important, he can’t do both, so that’s why he’s transferring responsibilities to Billy Hogan for the moment.
We’ll see what happens after the sale, what kind of sale it is, whether he resumes responsibilities, that hasn’t been fully fleshed out yet, and I don’t think they know the answer until we find out what kind of sale transpires.
From what you’re hearing, are FSG wary of selling to someone whose values align with those of LFC?
In the scenario where we’re talking about minority partners joining LFC, I think they’d have to be aligned and agree to operate the team like FSG has, and I assume how they’ll continue to operate.
The full sale option – there’s nothing stopping them, I suppose, from selling to whoever they want.
In their initial statement, they said they want to leave Liverpool in good hands, whether or not they believe that’s possible with say a Middle Eastern oil private consortium of some sort, I don’t know if they’re open to that or not.
I’m sure they’re going to listen to everything, whether the investor is from Germany, the Middle East or North America, they will listen.
Thanks to Michael for answering our questions. Find him on Twitter: @MikeSilvermanBB.