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Chelsea owner Todd Boehly has hinted at the next step for Liverpool and FSG

Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly expressed his desire for the club’s ownership group to add more football teams to their portfolio in the near future.

 

Boehly, who fronted the bid to acquire the club from Roman Abramovich alongside Clearlake Capital and Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss during the summer, is seeking to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Manchester City owners City Football Group and the Red Bull clubs of RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg and create a multi-club model where Chelsea will sit at the summit and have a simpatico relationship with those that sit beneath.

 

Multi-club ownership has become more commonplace in European football with the likes of RedBird Capital Partners, 11 per cent stakeholders in Liverpool owners Fenway Sports Group, having added AC Milan earlier this month to a portfolio that already included Toulouse. Add to that owners like Leicester City’s King Power also having a controlling stake in Belgian top tier side OH Leuven, while Chinese-American entrepreneur Chien Lee, the founder of New City Capital, has built a network of clubs alongside the Pacific Media Group that includes Barnsley, Nancy, KV Oostende, FC Thun, Den Bosch, Esbjerg and Kaiserslautern.

 

Speaking at the SALT conference in New York, Boehly said: “I think we’re going to be continuously adding resources.

 

“I think we’ve been talked about having a multi-club model; I would love to continue to build out the footprint. And to me, the way to do that is through another club somewhere in a competitive league in Europe.

 

“Red Bull does a really good job—they’ve got Leipzig, and they’ve got Salzburg, both of which are playing in the Champions League. They’ve figured out how to make that work.”

 

According to a report in the Telegraph, discussions have already taken place regarding the potential acquisition of a Portuguese top flight side.

 

Multi-club ownership, while valuable for tapping into the media rights for leagues, is important to owners for the development of its own players. Instead of farming players out on loan and entrusting their development to other clubs they can house talent within a system that allows for them to develop within a set system, something that has been important to Red Bull. While RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg operate independently of each other from a legal sense in order to be able to both compete in the Champions League and fall within UEFA regulations over conflict of interest, they, along with the likes of FC Liefering in the system, have been able to develop talent at various stages and grow values enormously.

 

Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita, who the Reds paid almost £53m to RB Leipzig for in 2018, played for both Leipzig and Salzburg, while one-time Liverpool target Dominik Szoboszlai made the journey from Liefering, to Salzburg and now to Leipzig. Others like Leipzig’s coveted midfielder Amadou Haidara have also taken in similar journeys.

 

FSG, the third biggest sporting empire in the world with a value pegged at around $10bn, currently have Liverpool, the Boston Red Sox, the Pittsburgh Penguins NHL team and the RFK Racing NASCAR team as the sporting entities within their portfolio. They plan on adding to that.

 

Last year FSG closed on a $750m investment deal with RedBird Capital Partners, the deal struck to provide capital for FSG to continue seeking avenues of growth despite the financial headwinds of the pandemic and without unduly impacting cash flow within their associated businesses. They acquired the Penguins in a $900m deal in November and it is understood that they are seeking an NBA expansion franchise opportunity when one comes available in the not too distant future, with LeBron James set to helm the project once he finally calls time on his career on the hardwood. It is expected to be in Las Vegas, if successful.

 

But they are also understood to be interested, like Chelsea owner Boehly, in acquiring more football teams to form part of a wider strategy, with FSG partner and Red Sox president Sam Kennedy stating last year that they would be open to looking at “international opportunities.”

 

FSG have been linked with the Brazilian market and a potential acquisition. The main reason for any interest is that ownership models in Brazilian football are changing, and the country where the beautiful game is the national sport and receives fervent support in a nation where the population is north of 215m there is enormous scope for growth, investors believe, particularly with the revamping of the domestic game.

 

A number of Brazilian clubs are changing the way they are governed, which has opened up opportunities for outside investment. With some having the need to find funds to deal with the impact of the pandemic, some clubs are now switching from a non-profit entity to a corporate one in a bid to restructure its finances, forming a ‘Sociedade Anônima’ (SA) to attract investors. That has alerted interested parties, a number of them from the US.

 

That has seen clubs such as Botafogo come under US ownership through Crystal Palace co-owner and Lyon owner John Textor purchasing the club, while Vasco da Gama have come under new ownership after US private equity firm 777 Partners added them to a list that includes Genoa, Red Star FC and Standard Liege.

 

Any FSG interest in acquiring a Brazilian side would almost certainly be linked to the clubs who are actively looking to form a new ‘Brazilian Super League’, as that is where the perceived growth and most lucrative market lies. Corinthians, Palmeiras, Santos, São Paulo, Flamengo and Red Bull Bragantino have been negotiating together, with another 11 clubs on a different side of the negotiating table; Botafogo, Fluminese, Gremio, Cruzeiro, Atletico Mineiro, Bahia, Paranaense and Vasco da Gama believed to be among them. Atletico Mineiro are the most recent to have opened themselves up to potential new ownership by forming an SA.

 

 

Boehly appears to be wasting little time in pushing ahead with his grand plan for Chelsea, but as is the FSG there thought process is usually considered and thorough. There is the potential for another team to arrive into the FSG empire and potentially aid the developmental side of Liverpool, but an NBA acquisition remains the next key acquisition that they Reds owners have been focusing on, although there may be a wait on that front given NBA commissioner Adam Silver stating that the League’s position was one that nothing was imminent with regards to expanding the NBA by two teams.

 

A value of around £2bn has been suggested for any expansion franchise, and that will be money that heads back to the owners of the other 30 teams who will be put out by another two teams coming to the table when it comes to media rights.

 

FSG are understood to be admirers of the Red Bull model, especially given that in the past four years they have paid the German club almost £90m in transfer fees for two players; Keita and Ibrahima Konate.

 

The appetite for such a move would be predicated on the long-term vision that the US owners have for the Reds. FSG, despite some criticism over a perceived lack of transfer spend, are understood to remain committed to the long term with the Reds, which given the teams position as the most valuable within their empire isn’t surprising. There has been talk of the next phase of the company, coined ‘FSG 3.0’ where more teams and properties will come on board. Any further football acquisitions will likely be done with the aim of being ultimately beneficial to Liverpool in the long run.

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