Liverpool have had a whirlwind day or two. A transfer picture that looked fairly settled has been torn up by Saudi Arabia, where the clubs put enormous amounts of money on the table for e.g. Jordan Henderson and Fabinho.
There will undoubtedly be some talks between FSG and Jürgen Klopp, where business and football interests must be balanced. In financial terms, Liverpool are being offered significant sums for players whose value had likely been more or less written off by the owners, particularly in Henderson’s case. Any transfer fees received can then be reinvested in the team. But there needs to be consensus across the board about how much business can be done without damaging prospects on the field.
It will be difficult to find that balance. But that is far from the only thing that FSG must focus on. There is activity across its sports empire, which also includes the Boston Red Sox, the Pittsburgh Penguins and a stake in NASCAR team RFK Racing.
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The Red Sox have had an upswing of late, but the roster still needs attention three weeks after the trade deadline. In NASCAR, team driver and John Henry co-owner Brad Keselowski came agonizingly close to his first victory, but had to scavenge for fuel from the lead, with the weather-forced end to the race coming just too late.
Yet none of these even make it into this week’s round-up, with so much going on. FSG co-owner LeBron James has announced a major decision, while there has been another update of sorts on Liverpool’s investment situation, amid long-term plans to add another team to the portfolio.
‘Not yet’ warning to FSG
FSG ‘sees itself’ in the NBA in the ‘not too distant future’, according to ECHO. It is understood that the decision to seek investment in Liverpool is not related to the desire to acquire a franchise, but the interest in entering basketball is very real. With LeBron James an investor, there could well be a prominent role for him in any such endeavor.
There has long been talk of an expansion to the NBA. No timetable has been set, but growth to 32 teams is on the agenda, and an expansion franchise is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $3.3 billion. (2.5 billion
About AthleticsNBA commissioner Adam Silver has provided an update that includes a warning of sorts to FSG and other interested parties:
“It is not certain, but as I have said before, I think it is natural that organizations grow over time. We will watch [Las Vegas]. There is no doubt that there is tremendous interest in Seattle. It’s not a secret. There are other markets that have shown interest.
“And just for the people who want to hear or read about this interview, we’re not involved in that process right now. I mean, we’re not meeting right now with any potential groups. What we’re saying to everybody privately is the same . I’m saying publicly that there will be a very open process at the time we’re ready to consider expansion. But it’s not yet — it’s not now.”
Liverpool.com says: It is a very long battle for FSG. There will be no rush to acquire an NBA franchise, but the expansion – if and when it happens – will provide an obvious opportunity. With LeBron on board, it just makes sense.
As it enjoys with its baseball and hockey franchises, an NBA team would give FSG some security given the US ‘closed league’ format and the more guaranteed revenue streams. The salary caps and draft structure also incorporate a little more level playing field.
There would inevitably be some concern from Liverpool about whether FSG were spreading themselves too thin with another acquisition. Similarly, eyebrows would be raised if the owners found a sum as large as $3.3 billion to spend on a new team, with transfer spending at Anfield not keeping pace with rivals. Regardless, there are interesting times ahead.
LeBron James decision made
While LeBron James may be positioning himself as a future front-man owner of a new NBA franchise, his playing days are not yet over. He took the LA Lakers to the playoffs last season, but fell at the penultimate hurdle, after which he made some noises about possible retirement.
But he has put an end to that now. Speaking at the ESPYs, per Sky Sportshe confirmed that he would return for a 21st season.
“The day I can’t give it my all on the floor is the day I’m done. Lucky for you, that day is not today.”
Liverpool.com says: Perhaps this, as much as anything, provides a clue to the FSG timeline when it comes to getting their hands on an NBA team. Nothing is imminent, which frees up LeBron to continue focusing on his playing career for the time being.
There are also other factors that come into play. LeBron’s son Bronny James is potentially only a year away from the NBA, opening up the possibility that the two could play side-by-side. The basketball legend has made no secret of his desire to do so.
Regardless of the reasoning, though, it’s good to see that the NBA’s all-time leading scorer isn’t done yet. It will be interesting to see if Liverpool, who have a kit deal with James’ lifetime sponsor Nike, look to forge further collaborations with the 38-year-old FSG part-owner moving forward.
Liverpool investment interest real
The news that Liverpool were ‘for sale’ midway through last season was not quite as quick as the Henderson and Fabinho stories, similarly surreal and fleeting. It didn’t take long for that attitude to soften into an investment search, which quickly went quite quietly.
However, it still seems to be rolling along in the background. One group that has persistently been mentioned is Liberty Media, owners of Formula 1. And football finance expert Kieran Maguire has confirmed to The Redmen TV that there is genuine interest there:
“Liberty are certainly interested, although I think they would rather buy the Premier League, which could end up being very expensive. We have seen similar organizations try to buy parts of Serie A or the Bundesliga.
“The risk of being an investor in Liverpool is that if you don’t qualify for the Champions League, you’re looking at a drop in income of £30-40m ($39-$52m). Whereas if you buy 10 per cent the whole league, you still have four teams that qualify for the Champions League. So a broad kind of investment is certainly possible and Liverpool are one of the gold standard brands.”
Liverpool.com says: Indeed, Liberty already owns an entire sport in the form of F1, so it would make sense if it preferred an investment in a league over a club. But the Premier League in particular is now worth a barely comprehensible amount, and even taking part of that would be a very difficult operation.
On the other hand, FSG is still looking to relieve a part of Liverpool. As Maguire points out, it is a “gold standard” brand. So if Liberty is looking for opportunities in the sport, this remains a very good one.