In the hours leading up to Everton’s home game against AFC Bournemouth, the ownership group 777 Partners have sent out a message to the club’s supporters outlining what they have seen so far and what they are trying to achieve by buying out majority shareowner Farhad Moshiri.
The statement from Josh Wander, one of the directors of the firm who was present at Goodison Park last weekend, seems to hit all the right talking points about the club’s great history and relationship with the fanbase. It does though appear to gloss over the tenuous relationship the 777 Partners have with fanbases from some of the other clubs that are in their growing portfolio.
As many fans have noted on social media since the message to Evertonians was published earlier today, this might be already more open and forthright communication than Moshiri has managed in years.
To all Evertonians,
Last Saturday was the first time Steve (Pasko) and I attended a match at Goodison Park. We stood in anticipation of the whistle as the “Spirit of the Blues” turned into the siren and Z-Cars, as the fans welcomed the team to the pitch. Despite the outcome, the experience of being in the stadium and the unwavering support of the Goodison crowd reinforced our commitment to this great club.
The opportunity to potentially assume ownership of Everton Football Club is one of the most profound we will have, both as investors and individuals. We approach it knowing we would carry the immense responsibility of 145 years of history and as a founding member of the Football League and Premier League. Throughout Everton’s history, the one constant has always been the people behind The People’s Club. It is, with that appreciation and awareness, that I write to you directly for the first time.
We recognise that change can be unsettling. We also acknowledge that there have been a number of misleading and concerning reports in media which have created a perception of instability and unrest around our proposed purchase. Rest assured, in this case, that the truth is far more boring than the fiction.
At 777 Partners, we have a team of more than 3,000 employees who have worked hard to build relatively conventional but profitable finance and insurance businesses that enabled us to invest and build positions in more exciting industries such as aviation and sports. Not all of our 60 businesses will be profitable at any one time, but the fundamental underlying business performance of the 777 Group is strong.
777 is not a typical private equity firm that purchases large healthy businesses with third party capital. We have had entrepreneurial success through building businesses from scratch - or acquiring businesses in poor condition and transforming them. Similarly, we have applied these principles to the football industry. We currently control four clubs directly: Genoa in Italy, Standard Liège in Belgium, Vasco Da Gama in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and Red Star in France. At each of these clubs, we have improved sporting results meaningfully while reducing costs and increasing player value. Our success both on and off the pitch is clear to see.
After productive meetings with Kevin Thelwell, Sean Dyche and Club officials in the last few weeks, we understand the current position of the Club better, and how we can be most helpful to fix some of the underlying issues. We need to be clear - there will be no magic wand, nor quick fixes - the path to creating a sustainable business that then translates into on pitch success is laid with hard work and difficult decisions. Our background is in building successful businesses; holding and investing in them for the long term. All 777 portfolio companies benefit from a shared service model where they can access best-in-class resources from the holding company. That’s the approach we take across all our clubs at 777 - with central shared resources for player recruitment, data analytics, and commercial development. The global football business and sports economy are evolving and we have a strong conviction our commercial strategies will give us a competitive advantage and enhance your experience as fans.
In the weeks since the announcement, our team has had productive dialogue with representatives of official Everton fan groups, and other stakeholders connected to the Club. We are actively engaged in a number of regulatory processes with the Premier League and others to approve our purchase from Mr. Moshiri. We are confident approval will be granted without issues, but we understand the process could take several months. These processes need to be given time to run their proper course, and should not be conducted through the media. It’s not appropriate to speak publicly about these processes at this time, but when the time is right, we will do so.
Today, football clubs are much more complicated businesses than ever before, while remaining vital community assets. But there is one eternal truth - we need to win matches. We can’t promise you that will happen immediately. We can promise you that we will instil a culture that demands and inspires two things: effort and accountability. That starts with Steve and I and includes every member of the organisation. We will seek to earn your approval through effort and accountability, creating a sustainable business and by putting a team on the pitch that respects the club’s proud heritage and reflects the character of the people who support it.
As Alan Ball famously said, “Once Everton has touched you, nothing will be the same”. Though our time on Merseyside has been brief, we feel that to be true. We also know that more of the same is not enough. Nothing but the best will do for Everton. On behalf of 777, Steve and I commit to work relentlessly to that end.
The nine-paragraph statement hits all the right notes as far as Evertonians would be concerned, talking about Z Cars, the fans’ incredible support and words like ‘effort’ and ‘accountability’, terms that could not be associated with the previous regime.
Of course, if well-written speeches and forthright communication allowed football clubs to be run successfully, then Everton Football Club’s future would be secure. However the truth is that there are certainly some valid concerns around 777 Partners viability as owners of a Premier League club, and if this takeover is allowed to happen, the new owners will have it all to do to ensure that not only does the club save itself this season but becomes a viable and independently-successful franchise on its own performances going forward.