It is little more than a month since it was first revealed that Liverpoool owners Fenway Sports Group were open to offers for the Reds.
In the four weeks or so since it was made known that the Reds owners were willing to listen to expressions of interest from those with deep pockets who wanted to take the full FSG shareholding in Liverpool, there have been plenty of names linked as potential bidders, from sovereign wealth funds to American private equity.
FSG had been on the lookout for some time for outside investment to bring in fresh capital into the business and had engaged major US banks Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs to manage that process before they opened themselves up to a potential full sale. But while the sale talk has largely dominated the Reds news agenda, only heightened by the decision by the Glazer family at Manchester United to put their club up for sale, little has materially changed.
A sale deck was created at the onset, as is the norm for a business that is open for expressions of interest or is seeking to sell some of its shareholding, and interested parties are understood to have requested information and some preliminary talks taken place. But in terms of things moving quickly it is understood that isn't the case and the expectation from well-placed sources in America is that it could be a fairly drawn out process where the final outcome may simply be minority investment.
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The sale of football clubs, or even investment into them, are not things that are concluded swiftly, especially the price tag attached to the assets in questions sits at around $4bn (£3.3bn) or more. A tremendous amount of due diligence takes place on both sides and the legal framework around such deals can take a long time to build, and this is all before you get to the stage of high-level talks and agreeing a price and an exit strategy. Neither of those things are understood to be close at present.
There is little rush on FSG's part to engineer an exit from Liverpool as it stands. While valuations are starting to slow down in the rapid growth that has occurred over the past five years or so, where Liverpool's shot up from £1.2bn to £3.3bn since 2017 according to figures from Forbes magazine, there is still expected to be a little more runway to grow before a plateau comes into effect and the view is that there would be an element of "leaving money on the table" for those that exit now.
There has been a tendency to look at Chelsea as a benchmark of how quickly these things can be done. In truth the expediting of the sale of Chelsea earlier this year was that there was a clock ticking after sanctioning of former owner Roman Abramovich and freezing of his assets in the UK meant that the London club were facing potential ruin if they could not address their need for financial clout and clarity moving forward.
The price tag that the club was eventually sold for, £2.5bn with a commitment for a further £1.75bn to be invested in the future into the infrastructure of the club, was born from the unprecedented interest, driven by the scarcity value of the club and that a full takeover to completely new shareholders had not taken place among the Premier League's 'big six' since FSG acquired Liverpool from George Gillett and Tom Hicks back in 2010.
Speaking at the Financial Times' US Business of Sport Summit in New York last month, Colin Neville of the Raine Group, the US firm that was tasked with finding a buyer for Chelsea, said: "When we sold Chelsea earlier this year we had people from six out of the seven continents, all the continents besides Antarctica, looking to buy the club.
"We had some of the richest people in the world and in countries that would surprise a lot of people.
"In respect to assets like Chelsea there is a world of have and have not in the Premier League. There are six power clubs that really don't come up for sale, and several of them are owned by countries at this point. That deal was partially situation specific because it was Chelsea, in London, hadn't been sold for 20 years had this history of incredible success on the pitch.
"The broader situation due to the Ukraine situation created an intensity like I have never seen in my career, and hope to never see again. Once these one of a kind, once in a lifetime kind of assets come up there will be a tremendous amount of interest. These are global businesses.
"These are still under-monetised leagues. The Premier League is still the biggest league and the biggest sport in the world and it is significantly under-monetised relative to what it should be."
The small window that was open to get the deal done meant that bids went up quickly and that there was a concerted effort on both sides, given the competition in the eyes of bidders and the need to close a deal swiftly for Chelsea, to get the deal done in a timely fashion. It was prior to a new season and much work had to be addressed in the transfer market, but the overriding factor was that Chelsea needed new owners in situ quickly in order to continue to trade as a business, such was their reliance on the benevolence of Abramovich.
With the sale price coming in at £2.5bn, that has emboldened the likes of FSG to look at their options in the market when considering both the value of the team when it comes to a minority investment and a full sale. Prior to the sale there had been an element of relying on equity research from the likes of Forbes, and using a multiple of revenue, to place a rather arbitrary valuation on teams as business assets. The sale of Chelsea gave a yardstick to valuation in the current climate, one that the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United could look at and assess where the extra value in their own teams lay.
The ECHO was told recently by well-placed sources in the US that while FSG principal John W. Henry would consider a full sale he wasn't in any rush to sell and was inclined to keep hold of the club if no major offer was forthcoming. Some other shareholders, such as RedBird Capital Partners who own 11 per cent of FSG, were also understood to be keen for Liverpool to remain as part of the FSG portfolio given the infancy of their FSG investment.
But it is understood that some minority partners may be more open to cashing out, and that is where the prompt to seek a valuation of the club as a whole in the market was born from, with the arrival of a "strategic partner" to pick up the shareholding of anyone who wants out at a $4bn-plus valuation understood to be preferred to a full sale, although if a bidder comes in above and beyond that with a serious plan a sale would be on the table.
There will also be an element of some would-be bidders assessing their options.
Liverpool aren't a shoo-in for next season's Champions League and there is the acceptance, even among FSG, that there will have to be significant investment in the first team in order to address some key issues, notably an ageing midfield. For some who may have been looking at a full takeover they would be assessing the risk and potential sums that would need to be spent next summer.
It can also be overstated how much appetite there is in the Middle East to get involved in another major European purchase. Abu Dhabi already own Manchester City, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund owns Newcastle United and part of Qatar's sovereign wealth fund, QSI, owns Paris Saint-Germain.
The World Cup that is currently ongoing in Qatar has put the spotlight on the region, and not in a wholly positive way, and with the likes of Dubai and Bahrain understood to have little interest in a Premier League push at present, the same said for the likes of Kuwait, then is leaves the pool of willing bidders, who would need extraordinarily deep pockets, a little smaller. The lifting of restrictions in terms of sovereign wealth funds investing in the NBA in America also potentially dilutes the market.
The private sector from the MENA region has been linked, and they would certainly have the funds, but with a new football regulator for the English game potentially coming down the tracks that would likely have a stricter line when it comes to teams leveraging their relationships with the MENA region to enhance commercial revenues through sponsorship, there are some potential bumps in the road that may make those who had been considering making a move to pause for thought, especially given that Manchester United is also in play and the likes of PSG are wanting to sell a stake in the club, as well as assets such as Inter Milan up for grabs.
Little has changed in the past month in terms of the sale stance of FSG and it is something that doesn't look like reaching a swift conclusion, especially if a major offer does arrive that tempts the Reds owners to sell.
Liverpool chairman and FSG's second in command, Tom Werner, told the Boston Globe, a newspaper privately owned by Henry, that it was "business as usual" still with regards to their ownership of Liverpool. That appears to be the case, and five weeks on from what was a major reveal, FSG are yet to be swayed.
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