There is rarely a dull day when it comes to Everton lately but even in that context, Tuesday was exceptional.
As the club searched for its latest manager, star players were linked with an exit while deals for new recruits were hijacked. Then just when supporters tried to take a breath, the evening saw a national newspaper report the club was for sale.
A story in The Guardian claimed Farhad Moshiri is willing to sell Everton for £500million ($620m) and has instructed Deloitte’s sports business arm to handle the process.
Around 20 minutes later, the club released an interview with Moshiri in conversation with fan advisory board (FAB) chair Jazz Bal, recorded before Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to West Ham United, in which he insisted he does not want to sell.
It comes as Everton are engulfed in a civil war, with the board of directors told to stay away from the last home match, and embroiled in a relegation fight.
“The club is not for sale but I’ve been talking to top investors, real quality, to bridge a gap on the stadium finance,” Moshiri said. “I can do it (finance the new stadium) myself but the reason I want to do it is to bring top sport investors into Everton — for some of the reasons the fans want: improvement, more talent.
“I’m committed to this club, not just the stadium, but to join the elite. We are close to having a deal done. We are very close to stadium financing and I hope to be able to announce that to you soon. It’s not selling the club at all.”
In summary, it seemed about as clear as mud.
So let’s try and unpick what’s really going on.
Publicly at least, Moshiri has always insisted Everton are not officially for sale.
Since he became owner in 2016, Everton have spent almost £700million on transfers and are now looking for their eighth permanent manager in that time.
He has said several times his main priority is to secure funding for the club’s new stadium project at Bramley-Moore Dock, which is scheduled to be ready for the start of the 2024-25 season.
Moshiri has funded the construction costs so far but has been seeking the additional investment required to finish the project.
A previous key investor, Alisher Usmanov, was sanctioned over his close ties to Vladimir Putin after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Yet it is also true the situation has been more nuanced at times.
It was revealed in June that Moshiri entered into discussions with US consortium KAM Sports, helmed by Minneapolis-based property developer Maciek Kaminski, last year with a view to securing stadium funding but those talks developed into a full-blown takeover proposal. The group is believed to have valued Everton at around £500million.
KAM Sports secured exclusivity over further takeover discussions, showing Moshiri was at least open to the prospect of a full sale. But that period elapsed without a deal.
Discussions continued a while longer, initially with a view to reviving the deal, but by November, confidence in coming to an agreement had completely waned on all sides. Moshiri himself lost faith in the group’s ability to complete a takeover and talks ended abruptly. There has been little prospect of a deal being resuscitated. Last month, KAM Sports completed a takeover of Greek top-tier side Panetolikos.
The Athleticc on Everton’s manager and ownership situation…
Although his initial willingness to listen to offers suggested the path to a full takeover was not completely closed, Moshiri has remained consistent in his position since then. His priority was securing investment and finding someone who could help kick the project on. The sale of a minority stake was most definitely not off the table.
The developments in recent days, at least the way they have been reported, mark a continuation of this process.
Deloitte has long had an association with Everton across multiple areas but declined to comment when contacted by The Athletic. The sports business arm of the group has gone through a change of focus and leadership in the last year, with greater emphasis on investments and takeovers in football.
Sources, who wished not to be named when relaying private conversations, close to Moshiri and other parts of the club reiterated his desire for outside investment and pointed to his latest interview with the FAB as evidence.
Talk of a serious, formal process, however, indicates positive steps are being taken behind the scenes.
Moshiri certainly wants equity investment to continue the impressive progress in constructing the club’s new stadium. On that front, it would seem he is edging closer to acquiring what he needs.
The British-Iranian billionaire summarized his brief in Tuesday’s video interview. “It’s just bringing more expertise in terms of global sponsorship, commercial development,” he said. “A lot of specialist sport investors have this pool of knowledge, and it’s to secure that for Everton.”
The frontrunner is a group that already has holdings at other football clubs, and a significant holding in a different sport. Should the deal get over the line, the group wants a representative with a seat on Everton’s board.
Executives from the group traveled to Liverpool earlier in January to be shown around key club sites by Everton officials, and talks about acquiring a minority stake have continued since then.
The group is by far the most advanced suitor, but there are others circling.
A consortium based in the north west of England has contacted Moshiri to register interest in a smaller investment and another US-based group of wealthy individuals, including Everton supporters, are also considering an offer.
It seems a period of change and international focus on the ailing Merseyside club will not be relenting anytime soon.
Moshiri talked about it being an “existential” time in the club’s history. If he is right, the stakes do not get much higher than that.
By delivering fresh investment, perhaps even fresh expertise to the board, he will hope for a timely step in the right direction.
(Top photo: Alex Pantling/Getty Images)