John Henry, Tom Werner, and the rest of their ownership group have brought the Red Sox to a level of success and overall popularity that has never been witnessed in the franchise’s long history.
Now, that same group is determined to bring similar prosperity to Liverpool F.C., a famous and once-great English soccer club now riddled with debt thanks to fellow Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr….
Led financially by Henry, a $477 million bid from New England Sports Ventures was accepted by the Liverpool board on Wednesday. The English Premier League is expected to approve the sale by Friday.
NESV would take over for current co-owners Hicks and Gillett Jr., who have run Liverpool and it’s future plans into the ground with debt caused mainly by the original purchase of the club in February of 2007.
There could very well be a legal battle between both groups before the takeover is official, but Liverpool fans around the world have been waiting to get rid of Hicks and Gillett Jr. for quite some time.
The two have been met with chants such as “Yanks Out!” this year at Anfield (Liverpool’s home stadium) as the team is off to its worst start in more than 50 years.
Liverpool is tied for the 2nd worst point total in the English Premier League through 7 games, and it hasn’t won a domestic title in 20 years (despite numerous successes in European club matches).
Hicks is the former owner of the Texas Rangers but was forced to sell the team this summer after leading it into bankruptcy. It’s unclear how Red Sox ownership will be received by Liverpool supporters, but it seems as though any change in leadership would have been a welcome one.
The group’s bid is expected to instantaneously wipe out the club’s current debt, and NESV has set a direct precedent in revitalizing the Red Sox and bringing the franchise back to prominence.
When and if the deal is completed, Henry and co. will have to decide what to do about Anfield, a stadium built in 1884. There were plans to build a new 60,000 seat stadium in 2002 and construction actually began, but the recession and funding issues from Liverpool’s previous American owners have halted progress.
NESV has poured about $250 million into renovations at Fenway Park, and it will be interesting to see if the group takes the same approach with Anfield. With plans and a site already in place, it may make sense to carry on with the original idea.
American ownership in the English Premier League is nothing new.
Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner bough Aston Villa in 2006, Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer also owns Manchester United (arguably the most valuable franchise in the world) and has been met with harsh opposition from team supporters, and Stan Kroenke (who owns the Nuggets, Avalanche, and Rams) has a controlling stake of nearly 30% in Arsenal.
At times, it’s been a dicey subject as English soccer fans have rejected ownership from individuals with no knowledge of or passion for the sport.
Henry’s group, however, is in a solid position. They’re basically rescuing Liverpool from perceived villains Hicks and Gillett Jr. and could conceivably bring the club back to greatness. It’s been perceived as investment more than interest, and in many ways that’s not far from the truth.
But if it takes an American based group to bring the club out of debt and into championship contention with a brand new stadium, I don’t think Liverpool fans will mind.
Based on the Red Sox’ success since Henry took over, Liverpool fans will be singing “Sweet Caroline” instead of their typical anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in no time.