Merseyside giants Liverpool have been making headlines from the start of this season for their on-and-off form on the pitch. Surprisingly, the biggest headline of them all came early this week and it has got more to do with the ones in the boardroom rather than the locker room. On Monday, David Ornstein of The Athletic reported that Liverpool FC has been put up for sale.
The Fenway Sports Group (FSG), the current owners of the Reds, have released a whole sales deck inviting offers from potential buyers. Two major American banks, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have been called upon to assist the process. However, the owners have made it clear that they will only do business with parties whom they consider to be a right fit for the club.
Forbes values the club at $4.45 billion, which is a massive shoot-up from the $ 300 million value of the club in 2010 when FSG bought it from George Gillete Jr. and Tom Hicks. The group will be looking for a bid over $ 4 billion, hence attracting some big pockets from across the globe. However, reports from the likes of Ornstein himself suggest that this move might not be “imminent”. FSG has to be prepared for all possible scenarios – a full sale, a partial investment and no investment or sale. Although minor shares of the club have been dealt with in the past by the group, this is the first time they have strongly implied a desire for a full transfer, hinting that the Americans are serious about getting their money out of Merseyside.
Probable causes for FSG’s new move
Despite the complex relationship the owners have had with the fans over the years, no Kopite would be ignorant of the massive growth of the club under the American administration. They saw the club go from near ruins in the hands of their previous owners to winning every major trophy available in club football, including the Premier League title, ending a dreaded 30 year wait. However, things haven’t been going according to plan this season with the Reds starting off with one of the worst stats in recent years. With Klopp also taking backlash for his “7th year curse conundrum”, things seem to be going downhill.
However, this doesn’t mean Liverpool is in need of urgent saving. The club nearly won a quadruple last season and is starting to turn things around right now by qualifying for the Champions League knockouts and climbing up to the 6th spot in the league table. So, what is in order is a fresh set of moves to be made in the transfer market which will require the owners to invest fervently, if the team has to go toe-to-toe with Man City. This refurbishing of the team, if not rebuilding, is going to ask the owners to make bold moves. So, this might seem like a good moment for them to pull their hats out from the ring if they are not up to making considerable investments in the near future.
The Chelsea Situation
Earlier this year saw Chelsea’s celebrated owner Roman Abramovich being forced into selling the club as a result of the after effects brought upon by Russia invading Ukraine. The financial side of the situation offers ample data to lure eyes like that of FSG to see the potential profit they could gain from materializing a deal like the one they are attempting to pull off at the moment. According to the head of sports analysis at Global Data, Chelsea was valued at around $ 4.15 billion. Projections are that Liverpool’s fortunes could go around a little over $ 5 billion.
Looking at the current stature of the two clubs, the Reds are sure to be valued more on the market than the Londoners. They have enjoyed more success in the recent past, and are currently in a more stable situation with a world-class manager who seems to be leaving no time soon. Also, FSG has relatively invested more carefully compared to the Russian oligarch, as the Reds has been running on a self-sustaining model which has also often been a cause for frustration for the fans. So, the sale of Chelsea has made obvious the kind of profit the Americans could make with a timely transition of ownership.
End of a Cycle/Options Back Home
After taking over in 2010, FSG has had a bumpy ride with the Reds, especially in terms of their relationship with the fans. The whole European Super Cup plot was the latest in an array of scrimmages that wounded this relationship, which included events in the past like the walkout by fans after the owners tried to increase the ticket prices in 2016. Yes, the Americans didn’t have the best of relationships with the scousers and Kopites around the world. But did they get things done for the club, absolutely yes. They took a near-the-ruins mid-table club to the top of European football, oversaw the growth of stars, got a long-term contract for one of the best managers in world football, invested in the stadium, built a whole new state-of-the-art training facility and took the club back to its homeland perch once again. After having a wonderful 12-year run like this one, it won’t be completely unwise to part ways and return back home.
Let’s be honest, football is not the number one sport in the States. It is not even called the same, for crying out loud. It is not to suggest that FSG doesn’t get the game and the people at all. John W. Henry, the face of the group, has been a passionate supporter of the club and has been a constant presence at Anfield come match day. After all, one of the major clauses they have for new buyers is to be someone who understands the sporting nature and ethos of the club. But, does all the other shareholders feel the same way, is a question to be asked. Especially since selling 11% shares of the company to Red Bird Capitals last year, the owners would be forced to consider the opinions of the others in the syndicate, who might be in favour of putting their money somewhere in America, like in an NBA or NFL franchise for instance.