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EXCLUSIVE: Sir Martin Broughton reveals what FSG confessed to him over Liverpool sale

Part two of the sportyhub’s chat with former Liverpool chairman Sir Martin Broughton focuses on FSG’s sale plans.


Sir Martin Broughton says Fenway Sports Group have privately told him they are in no rush to sell Liverpool FC and believes the plan to offload the club was brought on by Chelsea’s £4.25billion sale last year.


But the former Reds chairman says the American ownership group will want to protect their legacy by ensuring they hand over the Anfield keys to the right custodians rather than merely selling to the highest bidder further down the line.


It was revealed in November that FSG were open to offers of either a partial or full sale of Liverpool, with two major US banks in Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs instructed to search for potential investors. To aid that process, a full sales presentation was produced for anyone who might be seriously interested, but over three months on, a resolution appears no closer.


Mr Broughton played a major role in ushering in the FSG era at Anfield back in October of 2010 when the Boston-based organisation, who were then known as New England Sports Ventures, purchased the club for £300m to end the reign of the detested duo of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.


Sir Martin, who sat down for an exclusive chat with the ECHO to coincide with the release of his brand new book ‘Whenever I Hear That Song’, explained what current chairman Tom Werner told him when he contacted the Reds chief about the long-term plans for the club.


“I was surprised but not astonished when I heard,” Mr Broughton said. “They have shown with Boston [Red Sox] that they are in it for the long term, they are not short-term investors going in for the short term and flipping three, four or five years.


“They have been here 13 years now and they saw the Chelsea deal and I think certainly realised that prices were maybe higher than they had in their mind of the increase in value that they had during that time, so [they said]: ‘Why don’t we test the market?’


“I spoke to Tom Werner and asked him were they seeking to sell? Were they seeking investment? What was the objective? And he said: ‘There isn’t one. We’re testing the water. If there is an offer that is a very high figure then we’d be daft not to look at it.


“‘If there is an investor that wants to come, we’d certainly be willing to look at that and we wouldn’t be at all surprised if we didn’t get either and we continued to hold it. We’re comfortable with that too. So it wasn’t that we have got an exit plan, it was more that testing the markets to see what is out there.'”

Since news of FSG’s willingness to listen to offers was made public three months ago, the Reds have been linked to a host of consortiums from the Middle East, America and India.


Sources close to the club have also indicated that there has been a gradual and reluctant acceptance from major figures within the FSG organisation that it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep pace with state-owned clubs like current champions Manchester City – and Newcastle United, who are funded by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.


Chelsea’s Todd Boehly-led Clearlake Capital have also spent around £550m in transfer fees alone in the last two windows and while FSG have seen Jurgen Klopp and his Liverpool squad win every top-level trophy available since 2019, criticism over a lack of spending has steadily grown in recent months.


Mr Broughton added: “They have done a pretty damn good job of competing! The year they got 97 points – higher than anyone has ever had to win the Premier League – and still not win it was crazy. I think they have shown shrewder management. They have got a team with a fantastic manager but a team that has competed at the top level for quite a few years now without spending quite at the level that some of the others have.


“I would be astonished if they weren’t concerned about the legacy they leave. I don’t think they are people who will walk away [having sold] to the highest bidder, walking away thinking: ‘Well we got a great price, what a good deal, let’s move on’. I think their heart is in Liverpool now.


“And, yes, it might make sense to exit at some stage, whether that is now or in 10 years’ time, everybody exits at some stage. But I think it is important to them that they are custodians and that role is passed to the right people.


“I think they will be looking for somebody who is thinking long-term, yes. I don’t think they will be looking for someone who is going to spend ‘silly money’. I think John Henry and Tom Werner would always want to focus on a gradual change [in the squad]. The year they bought Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, those were the two players that transformed the team. They filled the two gaps.”


Both Newcastle and Chelsea have been taken over by ambitious, wealthy owners inside the last 18 months and Liverpool are on the market at a time when Manchester United are also available after the Glazer family detailed their aims of a sale in November. Recent reports have also linked Tottenham Hotspur to Iranian-American businessman Jahn Najafi.


Despite concerns over where the long-term future of the game is heading due to the increased in interest from various billionaires from across the globe, Mr Broughton believes the interest only adds to a more competitive division overall.


“I am keen to sort of step back a bit and look at the Premier League,” he said. “Until Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea (in 2003), I think you had a decade where nine out of the 10 years it was Manchester United or Arsenal [who won it]. It was becoming a duopoly like Scotland.


“Roman came in and made it three, Sheikh Mansour came in and Man City made it four, Fenway came in, without spending the same amount of money, and made it five and now you’ve got the Saudis coming in now with Newcastle making it gradually six.


“The reason Liverpool is worth what it is and the reason Manchester United and Chelsea are worth what they are is because the Premier League is the Premier League. Where else do you get six teams capable of winning the league at the start of the season?


“In Germany it’s Bayern Munich or Bayern Munich. In France, PSG or PSG. Spain, OK you have three but the value of the Premier League has gone up because you have titans playing each other every week, not just El Clasico, so to speak. So the collective has become worth more because of the Mansours, the Abramovichs, the Saudis and Fenway’s capabilities of keeping pace with them.”


In terms of the sales process itself, however, the former Reds chairman says in his experience in overseeing the sale of a high-profile, elite-level football club, that it can be a fraught process that is often at the mercy of the personalities involved.


“I don’t think there is a blueprint,” he added. “I think what we did and what I think Raine (investment bankers) did with Chelsea and the same with Manchester United, I’d think, is, well the nearest thing to a blueprint is: a formal process but recongise there is a parallel informal process.


“The formal process sets dates by which you want bids and if you want to bid come see us, get an information memorandum, get the facts, go into a data room and look at the facts, etcetera. But you have to recognise that there are some bidders who don’t want to go through that process.


“You wouldn’t get Roman Abramovich going through that process if he was coming in today, he’d be going down an informal process. And you can’t say: ‘We’re not going to talk to you Roman because you’re not going through the process.’


“So you have those two in parallel. George Gillett’s United Arab Emirates price, had he been real (in 2010), wouldn’t have gone through the formal process! So you have the two together and be flexible to allow the informal to join up with the formal at the last minute.”

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