Liverpool sale Q&A: Why are Fenway Sports Group selling now?

Liverpool sale Q&A: Why are FSG selling now? Who wants to buy? Will new owners splash out on star names? All the big questions answered as Jurgen Klopp and Co prepare for a new era at Anfield

  • READ: Liverpool’s owners Fenway Sports Group have put the club up for sale 
  • FSG have owned the Merseyside club since purchasing it back in October 2010 
  • They are ‘inviting offers’ for the Premier League giants after 12 years in charge 
  • Questions have emerged on what any sale would mean for boss Jurgen Klopp 
  • Who is in a position to finance a takeover of Liverpool also remains up in the air 
  • Sportsmail tries to answer key questions and look at what is next for Liverpool 

When news dropped that Liverpool Football Club was now up for sale, a whole host questions were soon thrown up. 

Who could buy the club? Do Fenway Sports Group just want financial support from a minority backer? How long would any sale take? Is this all because of the failed European Super League? Will Jurgen Klopp stick around? On and on they went. 

FSG said: ‘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.

Liverpool were put up for sale on Monday and a host of questions have emerged as a result

‘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.’

It is undeniable that this public statement represents a shift to what has gone before and Liverpool are as on the market as they have ever been in the past 12 years.  

So, with that in mind, Sportsmail looks to answer all of the key questions surrounding Monday’s announcement and what could follow as a result… 

What’s the latest? 

On Monday afternoon FSG confirmed in a statement that they are now prepared to sell their controlling stake in Liverpool.

However fans wanted to dice up the words of the owners, it is significant and appears to be the first major move in ending their 12-year ownership of the club.

There have been plenty of highs, none better than ending their 30-year wait for a Premier League title in 2020, but news that investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have been enlisted by FSG to assist in the process of finding a party who would either be prepared to pump money for a percentage – or buy Liverpool outright – speaks volumes.

Sportsmail reported on Monday that sources close to FSG insist they will remain at the helm for the foreseeable future.

Fenway Sports Group (owners John W Henry, second left, and Tom Werner, second from right) have announced they are ‘inviting offers’ to sell Liverpool in a dramatic ownership update

Henry (middle) and Werner purchased the club from George Gillett and Tom Hicks in 2010

And yet given the fact an Information Memorandum was sent out to potential buyers last month – effectively a sales document – the situation is now significantly different to how it has been in the past.

FSG has had something of a reshuffle since RedBird Capital, headed by the American billionaire Gerry Cardinale, bought a 10 per cent stake in the group at the start of 2021.

The question now is how much concrete interest is there and how fast could the wheels turn to bring FSG’s tenure to a close? 

It is as of yet unclear if John W Henry, Chairman Tom Werner or President Mike Gordon – a major ally to Jurgen Klopp, whom he speaks to daily – would attend this weekend’s home game against Southampton. 

NBA legend LeBron James and Larry Lucchino, the former Boston Red Sox chief executive, are also part of FSG, but hold much smaller stakes in the club. 

Why now?

This was one of the key questions to emerge following the announcement and the consensus goes back to the foiled European Super League.

The answer is two-pronged on both the Super League and also the market value FSG will have seen with the £4.25billion sale of Chelsea this year.

Taking the financial line before looking at the failed Super League, FSG have seen their investment absolutely explode since they bought it for £300m back in 2011.

George Gillett and Tom Hicks had run the club into the ground and described the sale of the club to FSG as an ‘epic swindle’. 

Given Forbes valued the club at £3.6billion back in May, they aren’t wrong. 

As of May 2022, Forbes valued Liverpool at $4.45billion as one of England’s biggest teams

Liverpool are one of the most storied teams in world football and would be able to realistically push for a sale close to or above the £4bn Chelsea sold for. 

It is perhaps unfair to suggest this is simply an investment flip. They have reinvested more than £150m into expanding and renovating Anfield and do seem to care about the well-being of the club, hence their assertion that they are happy to stay pat if no suitable offer arrives. 

But it is understood the botched European Super League has damaged the view moving forward. 

Henry is a businessman and like all successful businessmen he wanted assurances over revenue streams – namely, the riches of the UEFA Champions League.

A Super League would have ringfenced unparalleled riches at the expense of genuine competition and given Liverpool look far from certain of a top four finish this season, it likely only reinforces his frustration at the ESL’s downfall. 

US-based investment banks, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, are assisting with the sale of Liverpool after it was revealed that the collapse of the proposal for a European Super League and the $5billion sale of Chelsea to Todd Boehly in May made the owners want to consider bids

Fan groups were furious with him and he eventually produced an on-camera apology to suggest he got it wrong.

‘I want to apologise to all the fans and supporters of Liverpool Football Club for the disruption I caused over the past 48 hours,’ he said.

‘It goes without saying but should be said that the project put forward was never going to stand without the support of the fans. No-one ever thought differently in England. 

‘Over these 48 hours you were very clear that it would not stand. We heard you. I heard you.’

What does it mean for Liverpool?

If this move triggers a new minority shareholder, rather than a full-scale takeover, a transfer kitty heading for Klopp could be dramatically enhanced.

Floating the idea of a full-scale sale now means FSG will get a good indication of what the club is being valued at externally. 

They have seen, as have the rest of us, what Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital paid to get Chelsea from Roman Abramovich and so could a 10 per cent stock sale lead to near £400m? Potentially, it all depends on bids that land on the desk of Golman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

England star Jude Bellingham is the one name Liverpool are continually linked with but he won’t come cheap, particularly after a World Cup in which it is anticipated he can play a starring role in. 

Liverpool are admirers of Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham and extra funds would help do a deal

FSG have poured more than £190million into renovating Anfield and increasing capacity

Taking on that hypothetical £400m, that wouldn’t all end up in Klopp’s control, quite clearly not. But he would be backed if any sort of sale was made.

If it is more dramatic than that and a full takeover is completed, the figures involved would be eye-watering and would inescapably change the face of the club off the pitch.

A consortium of businessmen feels the most probable way to purchase a club as expensive as Liverpool, but as to who could be involved in those that remains up in the air. 

Any new takeover of Liverpool would likely mean serious cash and as Europe’s elite are showing – cash is king if you want to win titles.  

And what about Jurgen Klopp?

Well, this is interesting given Klopp’s new contract, penned back in April.

The Athletic, who first reported news of FSG’s willingness to sell, have detailed how there had been a resignation in FSG that Klopp was going to depart Anfield when his contract expired in 2024, only to see him commit to fresh terms.

It has become apparent that Klopp, according to their report, was convinced to sign new terms because FSG were ‘in it for the long haul’ and so any departure would naturally raise questions about the German’s long-term future at the club.

Klopp has been the best piece of recruitment in the FSG era and his relationship with Gordon has been key to that, with the pair in contact on a daily basis.

Since hiring Jurgen Klopp (second from left) FSG have enjoyed incredible success at Liverpool

It has been reported that Klopp (right) signed a new deal in April on the proviso that FSG were ‘in it for the long haul’ at Liverpool, throwing his future into question if they sold the club

The Athletic add that Klopp was made aware of the FSG statement, released on Monday, back in October, but that the appetite was to keep it out of the public domain until the closed season.

Much around Klopp is ifs, buts and maybes at this stage.

He has, however, been vociferous in his denunciation of state-owned clubs and was particularly critical of Manchester City, Newcastle United and Paris Saint-Germain recently, although didn’t name any of them directly.

Klopp’s affinity with Liverpool, the city and the supporters is the envy of most clubs across Europe and to break that would require something significant. 

A case of crossing the bridge if it comes to an actual FSG full sale. 

Do we know of any interested bidders?

It is still very early days but names will crop up thick and fast now.

Among the suitors are the Ricketts family, who were also in contention to buy Chelsea and sought ownership of Tottenham Hotspur, according to The Times. 

The Ricketts family, the sole owners of the Chicago Cubs, are likely to not be alone in interested investors from the States. 

Britain’s wealthiest man Sir Jim Ratcliffe appears desperate to gain control of a Premier League club and he floated his name for both Chelsea and Manchester United in the past 12 months. 

That one is more speculative at this early stage but there is genuine interest in owning a Premier League team from Ratcliffe’s side. 

Gerry Cardinale, chief executive officer of Redbird Capital Partners, and his investment firm own a 10 per cent stake in Liverpool after it was sold to them for $625million last year

Chicago Cubs owner Thomas S. Ricketts celebrates with The Commissioner’s Trophy after the Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 World Series. The Ricketts family were interested in buying Chelsea and there have been reports they will now explore Liverpool

What’s the club worth to sell now? 

An exact figure is always going to be tricky to nail down but you’re safe in the assessment that they could sell for more than 12 times what they paid for it.

It would be hard to ignore proof of funds to the tune of £4bn should a legitimate bidder – or consortium – present themselves.

What did fans make of the news?

They were happy, by and large.

A sizeable number of fans took to Twitter to express their delight at news FSG put the club up for sale. 

The reason behind that appears to stem from a belief that FSG are incapable of bankrolling the club to the point where they can challenge City, Real Madrid, Barcelona and PSG to the game’s biggest names. 

Henry and wife Linda celebrating Liverpool’s Champions League triumph back in 2019

One Liverpool fan declared: ‘This is the best day of my life’.

Another wrote: ‘What a day #FSGOUT’.

There is another faction of the fan-base that are warning those celebrating to be careful what they wish for. 

FSG have delivered a league title, as well as a Champions League crown, have expanded Anfield, which will eventually hit 61,000, and bar a handful of PR gaffes across 12 years, they have done a good job. 

Share this article

Source: Read Full Article