Everton owner Farhad Moshiri originally intended to talk about stadium funding.
The Iranian-born billionaire has agreed to speak with Peter Kenyon’s finance heavyweight consortium to find out what they could offer his club’s plan to build a glittering new 53,000-seater ground on the banks of the river Mersey.
But then it became apparent that Kenyon, gold mining magnate John L. Thornton and real estate mogul Maciek Kaminski were interested in more than that – buying a majority stake in the club itself. Moshiri continued to listen.
Punished by the events of last season which culminated in the club’s first relegation since 1951 and the withdrawal of key sponsor Alisher Usmanov as the global economy was rocked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Moshiri was contacted by several groups interested in acquiring its majority share. from Everton.
As of today, the group led by former Chelsea and Manchester United CEO Kenyon are in pole position.
A Master Agreement has been drafted – essentially a non-binding document that sets out the main issues of a proposed takeover or sale.
No one close to the talks expects them to be resolved anytime soon.
Some close to Moshiri urge caution, advising him that if he were to go ahead with the construction of the Bramley-Moore Dock stadium in time for the 2024-25 season, then he might be in a position to sell the club for around £1 billion. double the £500m he currently values Everton at.
But Moshiri, who seven days ago broke his silence with his supporters to apologize for the mistakes of his six-year reign so far and reiterate his commitment to building the successor to Goodison Park, can still decide that two years is too long to wait.
Athleticism understands that ideally the former accountant would retain a 10% stake in the club after any potential takeover, but it remains to be seen whether his terms and valuation of the club are shared by any of the interested parties.
Moshiri may want to stay in a new era under new owners, but it has been suggested Everton’s board could look significantly different in the event of a takeover.
Why would Moshiri be open for sale?
It was only last week that Moshiri appeared to publicly reaffirm his commitment to Everton.
In an open letter to fans, he apologized for mistakes made under his stewardship, which began in 2016, and promised to “deliver a fully-funded new stadium” that would “support our status as a leading club”.
“Of course, the stadium alone will not help us achieve our goals and we are committed to not making the same mistakes again, including the fact that we have not always spent large sums wisely,” he said. -he writes.
Still, it was a troubling season on and off the pitch; one that took its toll on many at Goodison, including Moshiri. After spending just £1.7million on new players last summer, Everton narrowly avoided a first-ever Premier League relegation, securing their top-flight status with one game to spare.
The big change, however, came in February, with Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine setting off a series of events that saw Everton temporarily sever ties with a host of sponsors linked to Russia’s Usmanov. These agreements have been suspended indefinitely and are very unlikely to return. Moshiri has also been forced to distance himself from Usmanov, a close associate and someone who has at times been a looming presence behind the scenes at the club.
Worth around £20million a year, and with the potential to come later in the form of a stadium naming rights deal, the loss of those deals left a significant hole in finances from a club that had already posted three successive annual losses of over £100million.
Even with Usmanov’s USM company money in place, Everton had been in regular dialogue with Premier League officials for over 12 months regarding their continued compliance with Financial Fair Play rules.
They have to be more careful now than at any time in the Moshiri era, and can no longer look to get out of a mess even if they had the money to try.
Difficult decisions have already been made.
Everton last week reached a record sponsorship deal with Stake.com which means a games company logo will once again appear on the chest of their shirts, two years after their split from SportPesa.
While it may fill an obvious funding gap, the move has drawn criticism from some supporters and activists. In 2020, the club’s current and current chief executive, Denise Barrett-Baxendale, admitted that, “in an ideal world”, Everton would not have a playing sponsor in the most important position on their match kits.
However, here they are, already back in this territory.
Some would say out of necessity.
The events of recent months mean that Everton are very far from operating in an ideal world. The well is almost dry.
Until recently, Moshiri and Everton have always insisted he remains fully committed to the cause. Reports that Moshiri was planning to sell, especially after Russia invaded Ukraine, were quickly denied by all sides. His pledge to inject a further £242million, as the January accounts reveal, also seemed to show his unwavering support.
But the whispers continued and it is true that the search for additional investment, in one form or another, began some time ago.
With the owner’s blessing, Everton have held discussions with many potential partners over funding for the new stadium. Moshiri was also reportedly keen at various times to provide additional funds to supplement his management of the club.
These talks, which have been going on for a few months, have now intensified…and turned into something completely different.
These are difficult conditions for obtaining new financing. Harder still if those you’re trying to convince to invest don’t feel like they can make their mark.
Who is in the Kenyon Consortium?
The group is led by a familiar face to football fans, as well as Everton manager Frank Lampard: Peter Kenyon.
The former Manchester United and Chelsea chief executive is said to be leading the talks so far.
Since leaving Stamford Bridge in 2009, Kenyon has become a director of influential football consultancy firm, Opto Advisers.
From his headquarters in Jersey’s capital St Helier, the 68-year-old has worked with various potential owners, playing a significant role in the Qatari takeover of Paris Saint-Germain in 2011 and advising Chinese conglomerate Fosun International on their purchase of Wolverhampton Wanderers six. years ago. He was also involved in a failed bid to buy Newcastle United.
But globally, the most prominent member of the group is American businessman John L. Thornton. Also 68, Thornton is a billionaire and executive chairman of Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold and copper mining company.
His golden career encompassed a period as a star banker at Goldman Sachs, leading the investment giant’s European expansion in the 1980s before becoming its chairman.
From there he entered academia and the orbit of politics. A professorship at Tsinghua University in Beijing, the Chinese capital, followed, in addition to becoming chairman of the board of trustees of the Brookings Institute, a think tank in Washington, DC.
Thornton also held a senior position at HSBC bank, but was lured into Barrick Gold in 2012 with a $12 million welcome package. “John was a very sought after and well-known commodity,” Peter Munk, then president of the company, said at Barrick’s annual meeting. “We had to secure it.”
Thornton’s esteem in political circles continued.
His knowledge of Chinese trade and his connections in the Far East led the administration of former US President Donald Trump to ask the courteous, Harvard-educated father of four to represent the country in trade negotiations with China.
Within hours of news of Thornton’s involvement in the Everton consortium, a photo began circulating on social media of Thornton having dinner with controversial former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and the former British politician turned right-wing commentator Nigel Farage.
Joining Kenyon and Thornton around the table will be American real estate magnate Maciek Kaminski, who is managing director of Minneapolis-based Talon Real Estate. The Polish-born businessman may be less well-known than Thornton, but hopes to play an important role in any takeover.
What would a takeover mean for the new stadium?
Whatever happens, Moshiri is likely to – at the very least – want to keep his promise to help deliver Everton’s new home at Bramley-Moore Dock.
Whether that’s with him still at the helm or via other investors remains to be seen.
Backed by his money, the £500m project is continuing apace. Moshiri provided the funds for the now-completed preparatory work at the site, and more recently the club signed what is essentially a fixed-cost deal with builder Laing O’Rourke. It is still on track to be completed in time for 2024-25, and still on budget.
With the help of US finance giant JP Morgan and Japanese bank MUFG, Everton continue to seek stadium funding. This has been the basis of past discussions with investors, which has, in turn, paved the way for these more serious conversations about a full-fledged takeover.
In the persistent absence of the right financial partner for the new stadium, Athleticism understands that Moshiri has offered to hold the money until conditions in the private lending industry improve.
Any consortium, Kenyon’s or otherwise, would need to ensure the project is fully funded and completed – a substantial commitment that would almost double Everton’s cost to any potential buyer.
Additional Contributor: Patrick Boyland
(Top photo: Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images)