Miami firm 777 Partners agrees to buy Everton FC

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777 Partners has agreed a deal to buy English football club Everton for an undisclosed sum, ending the reign of British-Iranian businessman Farhad Moshiri after a series of setbacks on and off the pitch.

The Miami-based investment fund on Friday said it had struck a conditional agreement to acquire Moshiri’s 94.1 per cent stake in the lossmaking club. The deal makes 777 the latest American investor to buy into the English Premier League.

No financial details were disclosed but a statement from the two sides said 777’s investment would strengthen Everton’s balance sheet and guarantee “full funding” of its new Bramley-Moore Dock Stadium in Liverpool. The companies said they expected to close the deal by the end of the year.

Moshiri has made about £750mn of investments in Everton but is expected to recoup only a fraction of his outlay. Football Benchmark, a consultancy, estimated this year that the indebted club’s enterprise value was around £470mn.

Moshiri has spent months searching for an investor as Everton’s financial troubles have become more pressing. The need to raise hundreds of millions of pounds for the new stadium, which will replace the club’s historic home at Goodison Park, has added to the urgency of the search. He settled on a deal with 777 after exclusive talks over an equity stake with US group MSP Sports Capital broke down.

The deal is subject to approval from the English Premier League, which beefed up its tests for prospective owners and directors in March. It will also face scrutiny from England’s Football Association and the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority.

777 already has investments in seven football clubs, ranging from minority stakes to outright ownership. Its interests include Hertha Berlin in Germany, Sevilla FC in Spain, the Italian side Genoa and the Brazilian team Vasco da Gama.

In July, Josimar, an investigative news outlet, raised a series of questions about past legal troubles encountered by 777 and its co-founder Josh Wander. 777 said the reporting was “wholly misleading”, and Wander told the FT this month that his 2003 cocaine trafficking arrest, which led to his being put on probation, was “a stupid college thing”. It had not troubled lenders, rating agencies or regulators, he insisted.

Wander told the FT this month that a “new wave of commercialisation” was coming to football that would justify the broad range of investments the company had made in underperforming teams.

Moshiri’s tenure at one of football’s oldest clubs has been troubled, meanwhile. The club has struggled with the new stadium’s sharply rising costs. On the pitch the team has had close brushes with relegation from the Premier League in the past two seasons despite heavy spending on players early in Moshiri’s ownership.

The threat of relegation was flagged in the club’s latest annual accounts as a potential threat to its viability as a going concern.

Moshiri, a former accountant, first bought into the club in 2016 and took a majority stake two years later.

In a statement, he complained it was growing harder for individual business people backing English football clubs to compete with wealthy rival investors. They include Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which bought Newcastle United in 2021, and the US consortium that acquired Chelsea for £2.5bn last year.

“The days of an owner/benefactor are seemingly out of reach for most, and the biggest clubs are now typically owned by well-resourced [private equity] firms, specialist sports investors or state-backed companies and funds,” Moshiri said.

Moshiri, a resident of Monaco, has been looking for new investors since last year after Everton cut ties with a range of companies connected to oligarch Alisher Usmanov, who is under sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A trio of Usmanov-linked companies had sponsorship deals with the club and had a naming rights agreement for Everton’s new stadium. Moshiri and Usmanov were previously co-investors in Arsenal.

Everton are currently 18th in the 20-team Premier League after gaining one point from their opening four fixtures. They are the subject of an investigation by the Premier League over alleged breaches of financial regulations.

The club made a net loss of £44mn in the year ended June 2022, following a net loss of £120mn in 2020-21. In the previous two financial years, Everton recorded net losses of nearly £140mn and £111mn.

Additional reporting by Josh Noble

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