Fenway Sports Group is trying to gauge whether it is better to attract new investors in its Liverpool Football Club or simply sell it, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation.
The team has engaged banking powers Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs to explore what the appetite is for a partial or controlling share of the historic soccer club in the global marketplace. Sports franchises, particularly European soccer teams, have become a favorite investment vehicle for investors backed by deep-pocketed private and public consortia.
The club’s middling performance this season is not behind this exploration, said the source, without elaborating on what factors are behind the timing.
Fenway Sports Group issued a statement that did not directly address a sale.
“There have been a number of recent changes of ownership and rumors of changes in ownership at EPL clubs and inevitably we are asked regularly about Fenway Sports Group’s ownership in Liverpool,” the statement said.
“FSG has frequently received expressions of interest from third parties seeking to become shareholders in Liverpool. FSG has said before that under the right terms and conditions we would consider new shareholders if it was in the best interests of Liverpool as a club.
“FSG remains fully committed to the success of Liverpool, both on and off the pitch.”
Since FSG purchased the club in 2010 for $493 million, Liverpool’s value has swelled to $4.45 billion, according to Forbes estimates this fall, placing it in 22nd place among all sports franchises in the world. That’s higher than the value of the Red Sox (No. 30 at $3.9 billion).
Liverpool is ranked as the fourth-most valuable soccer franchise, trailing Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Manchester United.
FSG also owns the Red Sox. The ownership group, led by John Henry and Tom Werner, bought the franchise and Fenway Park for $700 million in 2002.
Henry also owns the Boston Globe.
Foreign ownership of Premier League teams is increasing, led by US groups such as FSG, Kroenke Sports and Entertainment (Arsenal), a Todd Boehly-led consortium (Chelsea), and the Glazer family (Manchester United), as well as oil-rich groups from the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (Newcastle United), which is also behind LIV Golf, and a holding company fronted by United Arab Emirates deputy prime minister and businessman Sheikh Mansour (Manchester City).
All five of those teams are ahead of Liverpool in the Premier League standings.
The development comes in the midst of an inconsistent and underwhelming season for Liverpool, which has managed to lose to the lowest-standing Premier League team, Nottingham Forest, yet has beaten defending champion Manchester City and, on Sunday, Tottenham Hotspur.
Liverpool’s 5-4-4 record heading into this weekend’s final game before the World Cup break places it in eighth in the Premier League, outside of the top-four finish it would need to be included in next year’s Champions League competition.
With 19 points, Liverpool is 7 points behind fourth-place Tottenham.
Participation in the Champions League means a significant injection of revenue, just one reason why Liverpool was initially behind last April’s Super League concept, which would guarantee its participation on an annual basis.
The fan backlash to that failed gambit was severe and swift, prompting Henry to issue a public apology.
The club is facing growing pressure from fans and media to make a significant upgrade during the upcoming January transfer window.
Liverpool lost in the Champions League final in May.
Michael Silverman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.