Liverpool owner John Henry on transfers, investment and next stage of FSG plan in exclusive interview with Dave Powell.
Liverpool principal owner John W. Henry says the commitment of Fenway Sports Group to the Reds remains “stronger than ever”, in an exclusive interview with the ECHO.
Since November and the revelations that FSG could be open to selling their majority stake in the club, rumours have been rife around what the future holds for Liverpool and its owners who took over in 2010.
Interest from the Middle East, the US and Europe had all been mentioned in relation to a full takeover, although the position within FSG, sources close to the situation had told the ECHO repeatedly, was that there had been little in terms of interest that was ‘real’ and that the preference remained for the Liverpool owners to find a ‘strategic partner’ that could help them recapitalise the business and aid future growth plans.
Last month Henry himself put rumours of a full sale to bed when he took the idea off the table in a chat with the Boston Sports Journal, stating that the focus was solely on the search for a minority partner.
In a rare interview, Henry has now spoken exclusively to the ECHO about the current state of play with regards to investment, FSG’s commitment to the future and plans in the transfer market.
While we formalised a process that has identified potential investors for the club, we remain fully committed to the long-term success of the club,” said Henry.
“That has been the case since day one in 2010. Our efforts every day have been and continue to be focused on the long-term health and competitiveness of the club. Investment in the club is never for the short-term. This approach has been successful over the long haul with patience necessary from time to time.
“In regard to Liverpool Football Club our commitment remains stronger than ever. The club continues to make great progress with youth on the field and off. Our Foundation is well supported and continues to quietly expand the importance of its work in different ways looking for as many small kindnesses as possible individually and hopefully cumulatively.
“The people of this club starting with its manager, its players and everyone from stewards to management are committed to the club locally, committed to maintaining the club’s great history and equally committed to making new history in a way that our supporters can be proud of.
Being a part of this club is something no one takes for granted.”
One area that has been of focus for Liverpool fans is the transfer market, with the Reds likely to have to spend a considerable amount this summer due to the need for something of a rebuild in key areas, particularly midfield.
Investment into the first team is set to arrive this summer, but Henry has stressed that the building of the club will continue to be done in a ‘responsible manner’.
“We continue building at Liverpool Football Club in a responsible manner,” said Henry.
“We’ve seen many football clubs (including LFC previously) go down unsustainable paths. We have and will continue to focus our attention on investing wisely in the transfer market and we remain incredibly proud of our squad.
“At the same time we continue investing in our training facilities, our main stand and currently the Anfield Road stand. These are all physical reflections of our resolve and how very seriously Fenway Sports Group takes its responsibilities for this great club.”
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The Premier League landscape has altered significantly since FSG acquired the club back in 2010 from the near ruinous regime of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
Spending on both transfer fees and wages has risen exponentially year on year and maintaining even a break-even model in the world’s most watched football league has proved challenging despite record-breaking revenues.
Liverpool have managed to find a way to level the playing field through their use of data, smart recruitment and ability to get the best-in-class making key decisions, not least manager Jurgen Klopp, but Henry admits that it is a challenge.
“You are right that there are ever-increasing financial challenges in the Premier League,” said the 73-year-old.
“The league itself is extraordinarily successful and is the greatest football competition in the world, but we’ve thought for some time there should be limits on spending so that the league doesn’t go the way of European leagues where one or two clubs annually have little competition.
“Excitement depends on competition and is the most important component of the Premier League.”
Henry also commented on FSG president Mike Gordon’s position, with Gordon having been seconded to handle the search for investment for the club, a search being facilitated by US investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.
Gordon has been the most hands-on member of the FSG senior management at Anfield for more than a decade but transferred much of his day to day responsibilities to Reds CEO Billy Hogan last year.
Henry said: “Mike remains fully committed to the club. He did take time off for a while this winter, but is a long way off from retirement.
Billy continues to be a driving force for the club. As CEO of the club, his remit is much larger than most people would think. Jurgen and Billy are a very strong combination and work very well together.”
*Dave Powell will be holding a special Q&A to discuss his interview with John Henry, latest investment plans, potential funds for Liverpool’s transfer business and more at 16:00 GMT.