Talks end on blank-cheque deal for Liverpool FC

Talks for a deal between the ownership group behind Liverpool FC and the Boston Red Sox and a blank-cheque company led by Moneyball executive Billy Beane have fallen apart, according to people briefed on the matter.

Instead, they said Fenway Sports Group, the ownership vehicle for both clubs controlled by billionaire John Henry, was in discussions to sell a minority stake to RedBird Capital, a private investment firm founded by former Goldman Sachs veteran Gerry Cardinale.

The private transaction would probably result in a lower valuation for Fenway than the $8bn floated for a potential acquisition by RedBall, a special purpose acquisition company directed by Mr Cardinale and Mr Beane, the people familiar with the discussions said.

The talks between Mr Cardinale and Mr Henry were described as continuing, and there was no guarantee they would reach a deal.

A transaction between the two companies would continue a recent trend involving private capital investment in major sport clubs and leagues around the world, particularly as the industry has been hampered by the pandemic. Private equity firms have been seeking deals from Italy’s Serie A to Germany’s Bundesliga and with New Zealand’s All Blacks rugby team.

A private deal between RedBird and Fenway would mean Mr Beane and Mr Cardinale would seek a different target for their RedBall Spac, launched in July with the purpose of raising $575m to acquire a sports franchise. 

Discussions about the potential for the private investment in Fenway were earlier reported by Axios.

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Mr Beane is best known for his analytics expertise working in the front office of Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics, where he became the subject of the Michael Lewis best-selling book, Moneyball, which was later made into a film starring Brad Pitt.

Mr Cardinale is best known for launching the regional broadcast network of the New York Yankees, YES, and currently manages more than $4bn in assets at RedBird, which recently acquired French football club Toulouse. 

Mr Henry, a commodities trading veteran who made billions crunching numbers, translated that success into owning two sports teams and stewarding them to championship seasons. Friends, baseball industry experts and former colleagues describe him as a champion of analytics in sports — like Mr Beane.

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