When Roman Abramovich sold Chelsea to Todd Boehly and his USA consortium for £4.25 billion earlier this year, it was inevitable that the owners of other Premier League clubs would start to consider what value they might be able to achieve for their shareholders.
Some would argue that the global popularity of the Premier League and the record broadcasting revenues it generates represent the peak of the market and now is the time to take the huge profits they can make, whilst the interest from the USA and the Middle East in particular is at its height.
Fenway Sports Group and John Henry and his partners purchased Liverpool from George Gillet Jr and Tom Hicks for £300m in October 2010. They bought at a time when Liverpool was underperforming on the pitch, and they looked a million miles away from repeating the successes of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. They appointed Jurgen Klopp in October 2015. That proved to be a masterstroke and the glory days of yesteryear returned as they won the Champions League, Premier League, the FA Cup, the League Cup, the Club World Cup, the European Super Cup and the Community Shield. They are also developing the Anfield stadium and they have a new state of the art training ground. And at the same time, they have played an attractive brand of football that has increased their popularity around the globe with all the attendant additional revenue that brings.
In 2020, Fenway sold an 11 per cent stake in the club to Red Bird Capital Partners for £655 million and perhaps Liverpool’s stuttering start to this season has made them think this is a good time to cash in their chips. I suspect that also in the mix is the fact that the so called top-six clubs in the Premier League were wounded by the reaction of ordinary football fans in this country to their attempts to join a breakaway European Super League. Additionally, the extreme wealth behind Newcastle United will see them join the competition at the top of the Premier League in the coming years and Liverpool will come under pressure to match the Saudi spending as well as the considerable might of Manchester City.
It is being reported widely that Fenway has asked Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to test the market based on achieving a sale price that matches or betters the price Chelsea secured. Liverpool is attracting all the publicity around a sale this week but make no mistake there will be similar discussions in the boardrooms at Arsenal and Tottenham as well, as their owners will need to spend big in the coming years to compete at the very top.
There will be challenges facing the Premier League as the USA and the Middle East tightens its grip on the top clubs in this country and they will need to act in a consistent manner to avoid legal cases as the Saudi takeover at Newcastle has established a precedent.