To the average baseball fan, that John Henry and his partners are trying to purchase a soccer team in England does not raise an eye.
But in Liverpool and the rest of the soccer world, this is dramatic news.
New England Sports Ventures has bid $477 million, which would cover the amount of bank debt remaining from the 2007 purchase of the team by Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
That debt comes due later this month. Liverpool FC is said to be worth close to a billion and is very profitable because of a rabid fan base.
The team’s independent board of directors has approved the sale to NESV. Meanwhile Hicks and Gillett have refused. Legal action seems a certainty.
Hicks and Gillett, meanwhile, are reviled and the team itself is playing its worst soccer in years, according to reports. Fans have literally taken to the streets in protest. The conditions are ripe for Henry to step in and purchase a major asset for less than it’s worth.
The Premier League said in a statement it should be ready to approve the takeover by Friday.
The other aspect of this is that Liverpool plays its games at Anfield, an antiquated stadium in need of replacement or repair — sound familiar? — and NESV obviously has some expertise in that side of the sports business. Larry Lucchino’s next undertaking could be refurbishment of a soccer stadium.
Here is the statement from NESV:
New England Sports Ventures (“NESV”) can confirm that their bid for Liverpool FC has been selected by the Club’s Board of Directors and agreement has been reached with the Board to purchase the Club. NESV wishes to extend its appreciation to the Board for their diligence and their efforts on behalf of Liverpool FC and its supporters.
NESV wants to create a long-term financially solid foundation for Liverpool FC and is dedicated to ensuring that the Club has the resources to build for the future, including the removal of all acquisition debt. Our objective is to stabilize the Club and ultimately return Liverpool FC to its rightful place in English and European football, successfully competing for and winning trophies.
Since 2001, New England Sports Ventures has made successful investments in sports and entertainment properties. Our portfolio of companies, including the Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park, New England Sports Network, Fenway Sports Group, and Roush Fenway Racing are all committed to one common goal: winning. NESV wants to help bring back the culture of winning to Liverpool FC.
We have a proven track record, shown clearly with the Boston Red Sox. The team has won two World Series Championships over the past six years. We will bring the same kind of openness, passion, dedication, and professionalism to Liverpool FC.
We are hopeful with regard to the pending legal and English Premier League procedures now underway, however, in light of these issues, we will respectfully refrain from comment or further actions at this time.
More on this story as it develops.
UPDATE, 1:29 p.m.: So far today — no kidding — I have received 15 e-mails from various media outlets in England asking about this story and John Henry’s ownership of the Red Sox. This is huge news in England. Tom Hicks is somehow less popular there than he was in Texas.
My dear departed English grandmother would have been pleased. She was from Blackburn.