Liverpool's owners are in talks over an investment deal which could see them build a European football empire… with legendary baseball figure Billy Beane helping run it.
The Anfield club’s American parent company FSG are in advanced negotiations with investment group RedBall Acquisition, set up by Beane and a billionaire American financier, Gerry Cardinale.
The deal would see the two companies merge, with RedBall taking a stake of just less than 25 per cent in the new company, which would be publicly listed on the stock market, and valued at more than £6bn.
The Wall Street Journal has confirmed reports from business insiders in the United States, which suggest Beane – who is famous for his Moneyball approach which revolutionised baseball – would resign his role with the Oakland Athletics to concentrate on the new venture.
Beane is currently an executive vice-president and shareholder at the As, a major league baseball franchise where he developed his Moneyball theories to take them from obscurity to play-off success on a tiny budget.
But MLB rules state he can not have an interest in two baseball franchises, and FSG also own the Boston Red Sox. If the deal goes through, it is understood he will step down from the Oakland club.
Sources close to the deal suggest Beane would not work for the Red Sox, but instead concentrate on building up the new company’s football sports ventures in Europe, which would include buying new clubs.
RedBall’s company website also lists the former Executive Chairman of the Premier League Richard Scudamore on its board of directors, and he too would be likely to take a role in the new European venture.
Cardinale, through his multi-billion dollar powerhouse investment company in the United States, recently bought the Toulouse football club in France, and was also in talks, which fell through, to buy Serie A side Roma.
And that opens up the prospect of the new company buying up several football clubs across Europe to form a group similar to the Red Bull football franchise, which owns RB Leipzig and Salzburg, along with clubs in Brazil and the United States.
The Toulouse club could be brought into any new venture after the merger, which would be allowed once the new company was publicly listed.
Cardinale also has an investment group called Redbird FC, listed as a “multi-club European football platform”, but which so far has no clubs listed, and with the involvement of Scudamore, that points to a parent company which owns several clubs.
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The benefits for Liverpool would be obvious, allowing them for instance, to follow the same practices as the Red Bull group in bringing young players to Europe and blooding them at the smaller club, before moving on to the bigger club – a route followed by Naby Keita.
Cardinale is also a major stakeholder in America’s biggest regional sports tv network the YES group, which broadcasts the live games of the New York Yankees, Brooklyn Nets and New York City Football Club.
And that opens up huge possibilities as Liverpool push their Project Big Picture blueprint as a plan to save football in England, which has been ravaged by the economic fall out of the Covid-19 crisis.
Part of Project Big Picture proposes that clubs can gain control of their own broadcasting rights for eight matches – which would allow them to sell the games on their own pay-per-view channels. And that is the holy grail for investors in European football.
Beane’s background is in sports analytics, and Liverpool’s principal owner John Henry has twice tried to hire him, first for the Red Sox, and then when he initially bought Liverpool. He has often expressed a passion for football, and the possibilities of using analytics in the sport.
Cardinale has invested heavily in sports analytics, most recently in a company called Zelus Analytics, which could also be taken into the newly merged company.
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