By: Nolan Hafer
Nov. 22, 2022
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
Fenway Sports Group (FSG), the ownership group of Liverpool Football Club, is prepared to resign control of their full stake in the club after twelve years. FSG has hired Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to explore the possibility of a complete sale.
Purchased for an estimate of $478 million in October 2010 (Forbes), Liverpool achieved domestic success under FSG with their first title in the British top-flight since 1990 and a run to European glory in 2019 when they claimed their sixth Champions League title.
Fenway Sports Group is a global sports media, entertainment and investment firm, founded in 2001 by John Henry and Tom Werner. FSG successfully bid for the ownership of the Boston Red Sox and their famed ballpark, Fenway Park, before moving into other investment ventures. The international sports conglomerate has moved to acquire the Pittsburgh Penguins, an 80% share of the New England Sports Network, and even a majority stake of RFK Racing in the Nascar Series.
In a recent statement, Fenway Sports Group added that “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.”
Speculation surrounding the potential sale of Liverpool Football Club is not new. Just last year, the investment firm RedBird Capital Partners acquired an 11% stake in Fenway Sports Group. RedBird Capital Partners moved to recently acquire Italian soccer giants AC Milan for a quoted $1.2 billion (New York Times). For Henry, the window to cash in on his decade-long investment in Liverpool may never be at a better time.
The recent sale of Chelsea Football Club comes at the right time for the Boston-based ownership firm. Just this May, Chelsea experienced a financial takeover led by Todd Boehly and his private equity group, Clearlake Capital, for an estimated $3.1 billion; the most ever spent on a sports franchise at the time (Forbes). Despite the appeal of Chelsea, it would not be controversial to suggest that Liverpool is a more historic and valuable club. FSG may be able to leverage the sale of Chelsea in order to provide the best return on their investment. The gradual rise and interest in the British game is nothing to turn away from either. According to data from the Morning Consult, Liverpool now stands as the most popular Premier League club for American supporters.
Liverpool is valued at $4.45 billion (Forbes)
During the reign of FSG, Liverpool has long stood in contrast to a new model of ownership in European soccer. Jurgen Klopp, manager of Liverpool, has been vocal in his criticism of clubs such as Manchester City, Newcastle, or Paris Saint Germain - all respectively owned by Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds.
“It’s just clear: there are three clubs in world football who can do what they want financially. It’s legal, everything is fine, but they can do whatever they want. Competing with them? It’s not possible to deal with that” (Sky Sports).
Graphic Credit: The Athletic
Rumors of foreign-based consortiums and billion dollar investment circling around Liverpool Football Club comes as a double-edged sword for their supporters on Merseyside. Liverpool’s success in the recent decade has been a story of savvy, analytics-based player recruitment, tactical innovation of Klopp, and self-sustainability through player sales. Opening their arms to liberally spend in the transfer market would turn Liverpool into the type of club that their fans have envied and criticized. Some fans, on the other hand, accept that owners who are willing to open their checkbooks with few regards may be the only prerequisite for a return to European glory.