Financial turmoil at Everton: The risky business dealings of the American investment fund 777

Hit with a 10-point deduction by the Premier League for its repeated breaches of the financial regulations in force in the English championship, threatened with additional sanctions for other breaches of the same type, the dean of Liverpool clubs is not left the red zone only on goal difference after the 1-1 snatched at the very end of the match against Crystal Palace on Monday.

Relegation, however, is not the greatest danger facing the former member of the ‘Big 5’. It’s bankruptcy, while hundreds of millions have already been sunk into the new stadium which, God knows how, is still under construction on the Bradley-Moore dock. Everton’s financial results are dizzying: 486 million losses between 2018 and 2022 represent a chasm that current owner Farhad Moshiri, long associated with sanctioned Russian oligarch Alisher Ousmanov, no longer intends to fill.

So there was relief on the Goodison side when, on September 15, the same Moshiri announced that a sales agreement had been concluded with the American investment fund 777 Partners.

But five months later, the Premier League has still not validated the acquisition. 777, whose co-owner Josh Wander was in the Toffees stands last Monday, is still waiting for the light to turn green. He has his reasons to be impatient, as we will see. The fans are wondering how it is that things are dragging on to this extent when it only took a few weeks for Sir Jim Ratcliffe to see the PL bless his 25% stake in the capital of Manchester United.

Dwight McNeil et Amadou Onana (Everton)

Credit: Getty Images

More than 200 clubs controlled by 777 in Europe

This is a question that I have not asked myself for a long time, for the simple reason that it has been more than six months since my British colleague Paul Brown and I published article after article (we have fourteen to date) dealing with 777 on the site of the Norwegian magazine Josimar, and that what our research has uncovered undoubtedly explains why the Premier League is taking the time to take its time, and will continue to take it, even if it intends to do everything to prevent the one of its founding clubs bites the dust. Everything, except risking even worse. The fact is that 777 is an animal apart from the pack that is sweeping European football today, these billionaires and investment funds, mostly American, who swear by multi -ownership of clubs and which, according to research by English investigative journalist Steve Menary, today controls more than two hundred on the old continent.

But 777 is neither Elliott, nor Red Bird, nor Clearlake, which did not prevent them from taking control in whole or in part of six clubs between fall 2021 and spring 2023, after testing the water by purchasing a few percent of the capital of Seville three years earlier

. These clubs are Genoa, the dean of calcio, Vasco da Gama, the former winner of the Copa Libertadores, Standard de Liège, standard bearer of Walloon football for 125 years, Hertha BSC, Melbourne Victory FC in Australia and , in France, Red Star FC.

Most of these are historic clubs, deeply rooted in their communities, but in a precarious situation both sportingly and financially, among which Everton would naturally feel in company. Seen like this, the model is attractive. The ambition would be to awaken giants. Well done. How ? With money, this goes without saying; but 777 no longer has any money, according to the information and documents we have received; and what they spend is not theirs.

The group, which says it manages $9 billion in assets

, had lost more than 400 million in the space of the first six months of 2022. The situation has not improved since. 777re, the group’s reinsurance company which has lent more than half a billion to entities involved in football, saw its credit rating go from A- (‘excellent’) to C- (‘poor’) in the space of five months. All 777 clubs are losing money (the venerable Standard, 20 million per year), and most of them are in debt up to their necks, Genoa to the tune of more than 210 million, although the Italian tax authorities have agreed to reduce its slate by 65%, otherwise the Ligurian club would have had to close its doors. Hertha, dropped to 2. Bundesliga after the Americans took control, is not doing any better. The owner of the company’s New York offices had to go to court to demand payment of the deposit owed, but unpaid, by his tenant. We could multiply these examples, none of which suggests that 777 will be able to turn things around in the near – or more distant – future.

Alex Iwobi in action with Everton

Credit: Eurosport

777 needs Everton more than Everton needs 777

On the ground, things are a little better, but only just. Red Star, whose supporters do not hide their opposition to multi-ownership of clubs, is the good student in the class, but in National. Genoa (descended to Serie B during 777’s first year at the head of the club) will remain. Melbourne Victory FC has had its ups and downs in this southern summer but remains in the Top 4 of the A-League. For the rest… Vasco escaped relegation on the last day of the Brazilian championship, Hertha will not return to the 1. Bundesliga, and Standard is experiencing the worst season in its history.

If 777 is staying afloat, barely, it is thanks to the generosity of a benefactor with a troubled past, Kenneth King, whose insurance companies A-Cap and Haymarket lent more than a billion – you have right read – at 777. King doesn’t really have a choice. If 777 collapses, it will collapse too. He must therefore keep alive what looks more and more like a dying “empire”, even if that does not prevent salaries from being paid late and legal actions from multiplying against the Florida fund and its affiliates.

We will wonder how it is that an investment fund which must borrow, sometimes at prohibitive rates, to simply continue to exist, has been able to lend almost 200 million to Everton since the sale agreement concluded in the month of september. The most likely explanation is that the acquisition of the Liverpool club would also give the keys to the new stadium to the investor, who could then mortgage this property and raise funds amounting to hundreds of millions, these hundreds of millions after which 777 never stops running, sticking out his tongue more and more. Hence what someone familiar with the matter told me: “777 needs Everton more than Everton needs 777”.

The Premier League’s caution can therefore be understood, especially since a new potential buyer, who says he is ready to commit a billion, has come forward. Save Everton, yes, but not at any cost.

777 attempted to blow up the Sevillian club’s board of directors shortly after his first stake, but failed in the attempt. The American fund’s share is now 14%, via a Spanish company which, curiously, also owns Genoa.

2024-02-23 12:42:00
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