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Liverpool’s Potential New Ownership And The State of Prudency


In 2006, John W. Henry—the executive fronting the New England Sports Venture’s (NESV’s) attempted takeover of Liverpool—was clocked at a £540m net worth. This was years before the inevitable subtractions of the global recession.

In 2009, Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, affectionately known as Sheikh Mansour and the owner of Manchester City, was estimated at about a £2.1bn net worth.

The gap is clear.

It’s safe to say that the NESV’s prospective takeover of Liverpool carries with it a culture wholly opposite from the win-at-all-costs mentality that Roman Abramovich or the Royal Abu Dhabi group flew in with; similar to Hicks and Gillett, these are businessmen: they aren’t handing over £300m to restore a cherished history, they’re handing it over to be handed more back. Investment seeks return, just like Sol Campbell seeks his kidney pies.

But the NESV are far from at fault for pursuing a profit.

It’d be naïve to reject the notion that ‘making bank’ is as mechanical a process to the modern businessman as the kill function is to the Terminator. And this ‘profiteering’ is only exacerbated by the influence of American professional-athletic culture: In America, sports like hockey, basketball, and American football all feature stringent financial regulations, such as a salary cap (an upper bound that limits the total amount owners can pay their players, across a team), which provides a buffer to the financial clout of personal fortunes—á la Sheik Mansour. In a strangely sappy way, the democratic ideals of the American constitution have permeated into the nation’s sporting culture and, although the NESV’s main interest is baseball (a sport featuring fewer financial regulations than other American pastimes), there’s a veritable connection between the idea of an investment quota and owners like Hicks and Gillett.

Whether the NESV would feature a similar reluctance to provide financial fuel—only time will tell. I’m a believer that the NESV would make a positive change, especially considering the low standard set by their predecessors. (Come to think of it, Liverpool’s position in the table almost guarantees that they couldn’t possibly lead the team any farther from success.) Businessmen they may be, but they’re smart businessmen: The Red Sox’s success didn’t come about overnight, and it didn’t come about by chance. Perhaps a direct comparison is in order: The NESV never approved of a Robbie Keane purchase that resulted in an £8m net loss in under a year, so they have an instant leg up on the dismal dealings of Hicks, Gillett and, to be fair in criticism, Rafa Benitez.

But I’ll posit the question: Even if the NESV provides relatively low investment (compared to the likes of Abramovich and Mansour), does financial prudency need to stifle a team’s success?

And I’ll provide an answer: No. From 2004-09, Chelsea, Manchester United, and the Hicks-Gillett Liverpool all saw net transfer losses ranging from £27-186m. Manchester City spent £115m in the summer alone and has received investment from Mansour upwards of £1bn. Tottenham come a close second in spending and an arguable equal to the other clubs in this list.

And I’ll back my answer with a (somewhat cliché) case study: What’s the one big-name club missing from the above list? Arsenal. During the same 2004-2009 period, Arsenal saw a net transfer profit of £27m. This is a club run by businessmen: They aren’t pirates scouring the high seas for clubs to abuse, and they’re far kinder to Arsenal than Didier Drogba; they’re movers and shakers with a vested interest in revenue and earnings—all of which starts with success. ‘Profiteering’ can’t be done without winning games and drawing in support from the fans, and the NESV know that.

Liverpool fans, ready yourselves and your expectations: This takeover won’t feature Roy Hodgson bathing in £20 notes (thank god—Hodgson bathing would be an unbearable sight). But it will mark a resurgence of reason.

Perhaps these Americans can restore their nation’s credibility within the world of football administration. But let’s make that a side note. For now, how about they restore both Anfield and the club’s winning mentality. It’s time to pick up the pieces and rebuild this shattered club.

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  1. Gwen

    October 17, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Arsenal suck

  2. Stephen Bowman

    October 9, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Chill article. You’re so right Liverpool are shite and Arsenal rule!

  3. Jon

    October 9, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Interesting point about Arsenal, but sceptics may ask how many trophies Arsenal have won over that period.

  4. ledge

    October 9, 2010 at 10:11 am


  5. Stacy Richardson

    October 8, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    In a couple of years we will no longer be speaking of a “Big Four,” but of a “Big Three”: Chelsea, Manchester City, and Arsenal.

  6. Brian

    October 8, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    NESV is going to bring sound managment to Liverpool FC, and turn Liverpool into the Arsenal of the north. They will make sound business and football decisions and make Liverpool a contender every season without having to spend Man City and Chelsea like money to do so.

    • Jay

      October 8, 2010 at 5:06 pm

      Which can only be good given UEFA’s increasing interest in the balance sheets of clubs…

  7. Dave B.

    October 8, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Not really sure comparing Henry’s net worth to Man. City’s owner is an apples to apples. Pretty sure I read Henry is one of 17 investors in NESV and part of the Liverpool deal.

    • soonerscotty

      October 8, 2010 at 2:27 pm

      Thanks Dave…I’m getting pretty tired of all the focus that is being given to John W. Henry’s personal net worth.

      Listen folks: John W. Henry IS NOT buying LFC…New England Sports Ventures (NESV) is purchasing LFC. John W. Henry is the principal owner and founder of NESV but, he is not the sole investor.

      If the other 16 investors all have a net worth of ONLY $100mill then combined with Henry’s net worth the cumulative net worth of NESV is around $2billion…That is on par with the Oil Barron’s people keep talking about. And $100mill net worth per investor is probably conservative.


    • Charlie Marsh

      October 8, 2010 at 2:53 pm

      More of a microcosm than anything else. It’s also worth noting that the Abu Dhabi United Group (behind Man. City’s takeover) is also a group of investors led by Sheikh Mansour.

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