It’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 when supporters tried to take a breath, the evening saw a national newspaper report that the club is for sale.
A story in the Guardian claimed that Farhad Moshiri is ready to sell Everton for £500m ($620m) and has instructed Deloitte’s sports business 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 Ball, 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 of directors told to stay away from their last home game, and embroiled in a relegation fight.
“The club is not for sale, but I have spoken with top investors, real quality, to bridge a gap in the stadium’s finances,” Moshiri said. “I can do it (finance the new stadium), but the reason I want to do it is to bring top sports investors into Everton – for some of the reasons the fans want: improvement, more talent.
“I am committed to the club, not just the stadium, but to join the elite. We are close to having a deal. We are very close to stadium financing and I hope to be able to announce that to you soon. It does not sell at all this club.”
In short, it was about as clear as mud.
So let’s try to figure out what’s really going on.
At least publicly, 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 repeatedly said 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 financed the construction costs so far but has sought the additional investment required to finish the project.
A previous major investor, Alisher Osmanov, was sanctioned for his close ties to Vladimir Putin after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But it is also true that the situation has become more nuanced at times.
It was revealed in June that Moshiri had entered into discussions with the US. The group is believed to have valued Everton at around £500m.
KAM Sports secured exclusivity on further takeover discussions, suggesting Moshiri is at least open to the prospect of a full sale. But that time passed without an agreement.
The discussions lasted a little longer, initially with the aim of reviving the deal, but by November, the confidence to reach an agreement had completely disappeared on all sides. Moshiri himself lost faith in the group’s ability to complete a takeover and talks ended abruptly. There was little prospect of a resuscitated deal. Last month, KAM Sports carried out a replay of Greek top-tier side Panetolikos.
The AtletiC on Everton’s manager and ownership situation…
Although his initial willingness to listen to offers suggested that the road to a full takeover was not completely closed, Moshiri has remained consistent in his position since then. His priority was securing investment and finding someone who could help kick off the project. The sale of a minority stake was most definitely not off the table.
The developments in recent days, at least as they have been reported, mark a continuation of this process.
Deloitte has long had an association with Everton in multiple areas but declined to comment when contacted by The athletic. The sports business arm of the group has gone through a change of focus and leadership in the last year, with a greater emphasis on investments and names in football.
Sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity in private conversations close to Moshiri and other parts of the club, reiterated his desire for outside investment and pointed to his recent interview with the FAB as evidence.
Talk of a serious, formal process, however, indicates positive steps are being taken behind the scenes.
Moshiri certainly wants the equity investment to continue the impressive progress in constructing the club’s new stadium. On that front, it would appear that he is closer to getting what he needs.
The British-Iranian billionaire summarized his brief in Tuesday’s video interview. “It’s just bringing more expertise in terms of global sponsorship, business development,” he said. “A lot of specialist sports investors have that pool of knowledge, and it’s about securing that for Everton.”
The frontrunner is a group that already has ownership in other football clubs and significant ownership in another sport. Should the deal 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 the club’s main sites by Everton officials, and talks about acquiring a minority stake have continued since then.
This group is by far the most advanced suitor, but there are others circulating.
A consortium based in the North West of England has contacted Moshiri to register interest in a smaller investment and another US-based group of wealthy individuals, including Everton supporters, is also considering an offer.
It seems a period of change and international focus on the ailing Merseyside club will not be relenting anytime soon.
Moshiri said it was an “existential” time in the club’s history. If he’s right, the stakes don’t get much higher than that.
By bringing fresh 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)