Even though they have little chance of being successful, one of the most well-known American sports investors is reviewing their options with regard to a move for Liverpool.
The ECHO has learned from US sources that Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment (HBSE), a company that owns stakes in numerous teams including the MLS side Real Salt Lake, the NBA team Philadelphia 76ers, the NHL team New Jersey Devils, and the NBA team Philadelphia 76ers, is “mulling their options” with regard to making a move for the Reds.
The club’s owners, Fenway Sports Group, were reportedly open to proposals last week after hiring US banks Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs to look for new minority investors.
The move by FSG to consider bids for the club is correct, according to sources with knowledge of the situation in the US, but there is no rush to complete any kind of sale. Instead, one will only take place if the valuation is met by a person or group that FSG find agreeable, which is thought to be around $4 billion.
Following last week’s events, a number of names have entered the running, including Sir Jim Ratcliffe (founder of INEOS and owner of OGC Nice), Mukesh Ambani (eighth richest man in the world and former Liverpool bidder), the Ricketts family (owners of the Chicago Cubs), Bahrain’s Mumtalakat Holdings, and Emirates Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund of the United Arab Emirates, who have all either publicly disqualified themselves or are widely believed to
The company led by US billionaires Josh Harris and David Blitzer, HBSE, has been linked to the deal from the beginning. Earlier this year, the group competed to buy Chelsea but lost to the Todd Boehly/Clearlake Capital-led £2.5 billion offer.
Blitzer and Harris each own 18% of Premier League club Crystal Palace; if they had been successful in acquiring Chelsea, they would have had to sell their shares, and if they had chosen to move forward and eventually succeeded in acquiring Liverpool, they would have had to sell their shares.
Blitzer mentioned the ECHO’s strategy if a key Premier League asset becomes available once more when speaking at the Sportico Invest in Sports conference in New York last month.
The 53-year-old, a well-known figure in US finance circles, added, “At the end of the day, I adore Crystal Palace, and people who know me well will know I love Crystal Palace.
But only a small number of organizations or brands exist on a global scale, and Chelsea is one of them. Since it was a challenging situation, we felt comfortable taking the chance to invest in it with a small group of people and giving it our best effort.
“If that had happened, we would have had to sell our stake in Crystal Palace. In one way, it would have been a very sad day if that had happened, but going back to the investment aspect, it would have been a pretty interesting one given the options Chelsea has. When I go to London, I definitely would have had to conceal myself a little.”
Bloomberg estimates that Blitzer and Harris each have net worths of about £1 billion and $6.25 billion, respectively.
HBSE didn’t act alone when they joined the Chelsea race. Along with Lord Sebastian Coe, the former chairman of the London 2012 Olympics, and Vivek Ranadive, an Indian businessman and owner of the Sacramento Kings of the NBA, HBSE also brought on Sir Martin Broughton, the former chairman of Liverpool who was crucial in the early months of FSG’s Liverpool tenure. Wall Street investor Michael Klein, who made the recommendation for Broughton to fill that position, is well-known to FSG due to his involvement in their purchase of the Reds and his participation in the consortium’s Chelsea bid.
In addition, HBSE has ties to institutional investors Arctos Sports Partners, a private equity company that has ownership interests in a number of US sports organizations and has been working with Liverpool’s owners FSG since 2021.
While there is reportedly interest in the possibility of investigating a move to Liverpool, “no definitive decision” has been made and there have been no conversations between the two parties. The current state of affairs is that the banks handling any potential sales of either a partial or full shareholding are close to finding interested buyers, and Mike Gordon, who is handing over a lot of his day-to-day responsibilities at Liverpool to club CEO Billy Hogan, is tasked with overseeing any sales or investment opportunities that may be presented.
Additionally, Blitzer has his own investment company, Global Football Holdings, which owns shares in a number of football teams, including FC Augsburg, AD Alcorcon, Brondby IF, and ADO Den Haag. It is known that the appeal of Chelsea was to use them as a sort of beachhead for a portfolio of other clubs; Liverpool may take this into consideration.
The cost will be a significant issue. When compared to the valuations of US sports franchises, where a multiple of revenue of five was where the valuation was reached against multiples of revenues of seven, eight, and nine to own US teams, Chelsea was seen as something of a bargain at £2.5 billion, even with a £1.75 billion commitment to future investment into infrastructure.
While there may be interest in putting together a bid, some high-level US sources that the ECHO spoke to have expressed considerable doubt that any such deal with HBSE will materialize. This is likely due to John Henry’s lack of urgency to part with the club, which will make it difficult to negotiate a low price.
According to sources, FSG and Henry are “testing the waters.”