Big-pocketed investors and have not exactly been beating down the doors since Liverpool and Manchester United separately announced back that their clubs were effectively up for sale in November of last year.
Unlike the frenzy surrounding the Todd Boehly-backed group’s summer purchase of Chelsea (clearly a harbinger of the chaos to come), FSG and the Glazer family have received decidedly less interest nearly three months on from signaling their interest in ending their respective ownership tenures.
The record £2.5bn purchase for a Chelsea possessing decent recent success both on the pitch and on the balance sheet relative to their peers demonstrated an appetite for ownership of the top clubs. Liverpool defenders will point to the barn-storming success both and off the pitch as justification a premium on Chelsea’s sale price while both they and United will talk up their status as England’s most storied clubs in Europe’s marquee league.
However, the lack of interest in the rumored £3b-£5bn and £6bn asking prices for Liverpool and United respectively—both of whom arguably exceed Chelsea on the pitch, commercially, or in both domains—suggests there might be other factors at play.
Former Liverpool chairman Sir Martin Broughton believes that the reason is actually quite simple: neither of them are in London.
“I would question whether they’ll [United and Liverpool] get the kind of prices they floated,” he admitted in a recent interview with The Telegraph.
“With Chelsea—and I think Arsenal and Tottenham would fall into the same category—the people we spoke to tended to be overseas billionaires who had a pad in London and the pad in London was in Knightsbridge or Kensington, Chelsea or something,” Broughton continued.
“So when they came to London, they went to Chelsea. They were football fans, and they were Chelsea fans... they’re not going to be bidders for Liverpool or Manchester United because they’ve got a pad in London and they’re not planning to move their pad to Manchester or Liverpool.”
The former club chairman led the charge in the 2010 legal battle that heralded the demise of the Tom Hicks and George Gillett era of Liverpool ownership, and was instrumental in the arrival of the current owners that same year.
The lifelong Chelsea fan suggested that FSG had been intrigued by the idea of cashing in on their investment and that he had even explored the idea of offering his assistance in the process:
“As I understand it, they [FSG] are interested to see what the market reaction is,” Broughton continued.
“They could be willing sellers. They could be willing to have investors, but if they carry on owning it, that’s fine too. That’s my understanding of their position.
“I did say to them at the outset that I might get involved.
“I never asked for any financial information. I did one or two inquiries with people that I thought might be interested but it didn’t go any further. So now I’m just looking at it with a keen interest.”
Unlike Manchester United, who have placed an April deadline on a sale, Liverpool have not committed to any particular timeline in their search for new capital.
However, with current minority investors, RedBird Capital now rumored to be exploring increasing their stake in the club, FSG might be coming around to Broughton’s stance as economic headwinds have subdued financial markets and reduced access to cheap capital.