There’s rarely a dull day when it comes to Everton lately, but even in that context, Tuesday was exceptional.
As the club searched for its latest manager, star players were linked with an exit while deals for new recruits were hijacked. Then, just as supporters were trying to catch their breath, the evening saw a national newspaper report that the club was for sale.
A story in The Guardian claimed that Farhad Moshiri is willing to sell Everton for £500 million ($620 million) and has instructed Deloitte’s sports arm to handle the process.
Around 20 minutes later, the club released an interview with Moshiri in conversation with fan advisory board (FAB) chairman Jazz Bal, recorded before Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to West Ham United, in which he insisted he did not want to sell.
It comes as Everton are embroiled in a civil war, with the board told to stay away from the final home game and embroiled in a relegation battle.
“The club is not for sale but I have spoken to top investors, real quality, to bridge a gap in the stadium funding,” Moshiri said. “I can do it myself (funding the new stadium) but the reason I want to do it is to bring top sporting investors into Everton – for some of the reasons the fans want: improvement, more talent.
“I am committed to this club, not just the stadium but to join the elite. We are close to getting a deal done. We are very close to stadium financing and I hope to announce that to you soon. It sells not the club at all.”
In summary, it seemed about as clear as mud.
So let’s try to disentangle what’s really going on.
Publicly at least, Moshiri has always insisted that Everton are not officially for sale.
Since becoming owner in 2016, Everton have spent almost £700m on transfers and are now looking for their eighth permanent manager in that time.
He has said several times that his main priority is to secure funding for the club’s new stadium project at Bramley-Moore Dock, which is scheduled to be ready for the start of the 2024-25 season.
Moshiri has funded the construction costs so far, but has sought the additional investment required to complete the project.
A former key investor, Alisher Usmanov, was sanctioned over his close ties to Vladimir Putin after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But it is also true that the situation has at times been more nuanced.
It was revealed in June that Moshiri had opened discussions with US consortium KAM Sports, led by Minneapolis-based property developer Maciek Kaminski, last year to secure stadium financing, but those talks turned into a full takeover bid. The group is believed to have valued Everton at around £500m.
KAM Sports secured an exclusive on further takeover discussions, showing that Moshiri was at least open to the prospect of a full sale. But that period passed without an agreement.
Discussions continued for a while longer, initially with a view to reviving the agreement, but by November confidence in reaching an agreement had completely waned on all sides. Moshiri himself lost faith in the group’s ability to complete a takeover, and talks ended abruptly. There has been little prospect of a deal being revived. Last month, KAM Sports completed a takeover of the top Greek team Panetolikos.
The athletec about Everton’s manager and ownership situation…
Although his initial willingness to listen to offers suggested that the path to a full takeover was not completely closed, Moshiri has been consistent in his position since then. His priority was to secure investment and find someone to help get the project off the ground. The sale of a minority share was definitely not off the table.
The developments of recent days, at least the way they have been reported, mark a continuation of this process.
Deloitte has long had a relationship with Everton across several areas, but declined to comment when contacted by Athletics. The group’s sports branch has undergone a change of focus and management in the past year, with greater emphasis on investments and takeovers in football.
Sources, who did not want to be named in relaying private conversations, close to Moshiri and other parts of the club reiterated his desire for outside investment and pointed to his recent interview with FAB as evidence.
However, the talk of a serious, formal process indicates that positive steps are being taken behind the scenes.
Moshiri is certainly looking to invest in shares to continue the impressive progress in building the club’s new stadium. On that front, it looks like he’s getting closer to getting what he needs.
The British-Iranian billionaire summed up his brief in Tuesday’s video interview. “It just brings more expertise in terms of global sponsorship, commercial development,” he said. “A lot of specialist sports investors have that pool of knowledge and it’s to secure that for Everton.”
The front-runner is a group that already has stakes in other football clubs, and a significant stake in another sport. Should the agreement get over the line, the group wants a representative with a seat on Everton’s board.
Executives from the group traveled to Liverpool earlier in January to be shown around key club sites by Everton officials and talks to acquire a minority stake have continued since then.
The group is by far the most advanced suitor, but there are others circling.
A consortium based in north-west England has contacted Moshiri to register interest in a small investment, and another US-based group of wealthy individuals, including Everton supporters, is also considering a bid.
It seems that a period of change and international focus on the ailing Merseyside club will not let up anytime soon.
Moshiri spoke of it as an “existential” time in the club’s history. If he’s right, the stakes don’t get much higher than that.
By providing new investment, perhaps even fresh expertise to the board, he will hope for a timely step in the right direction.
(Top photo: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)