Miami-based investment firm, 777 Partners, has been on a soccer team buying spree, snapping up stakes in clubs across Italy, Brazil, Belgium, France, Germany, and Australia.
But it’s their bid for Everton F.C., a founding member of the Premier League, that has everyone talking.
Despite claiming $10 billion in assets, 777 Partners remains a mystery. The company’s finances are closely guarded, and a string of unpaid bills and lawsuits have raised eyebrows.
As the business bids for a place in the Premier League, they face a thorough review of their holdings and finances.
Josh Wander, the company’s co-owner, claims to be “more serious about investing” in soccer than anyone in history. But the bid for Everton, which would require hundreds of millions of dollars in assumed debt and other obligations, is far from a done deal.
The Premier League, England’s Football Association, and the Financial Conduct Authority all need to approve the proposed deal, a process that could take months.
The outcome could have implications not only for Everton, a money-losing giant but also for the rest of the financially troubled teams in the 777 network.
The Premier League, too, is under pressure to prove it can oversee its clubs’ finances amid talk of government regulation.
Wander, in a letter to fans, dismissed media reports about the company’s businesses as “misleading.”
He insisted, “We are not asset strippers nor speculative investors. We build and hold businesses, and intend to hold the football clubs in our portfolio for a long term.”
However, insiders have questioned the sources of 777’s financing and its ability to manage a global network of clubs carrying hundreds of millions of dollars in debts and obligations.
The company’s portfolio includes teams like Genoa in Italy, Hertha Berlin in Germany, and Vasco da Gama in Brazil. All these teams were in a financial crisis before 777 Partners stepped in.
The company’s financial structure is closely controlled by Wander and co-founder Steve Pasko. The company relies on loans to operate many of its businesses, and some of the businesses they run, including its sports teams, have reported missed payments related to agreed-upon funding schedules and even routine operating expenses.
Keiron Maguire, a lecturer in the management school at the University of Liverpool and a specialist in soccer finance, said the pattern of late and delayed payments raises the biggest doubts about 777’s suitability to run Everton.
“It’s a red flag to a potentially more significant cash-flow issue or incompetent management,” he said.
Everton’s current owner, Farhad Moshiri, has spent close to $1 billion on Everton since purchasing the team in 2016. The club’s immediate financial needs are so acute that 777 has already lent the team more than 20 million pounds, or almost $25 million, just so it can continue to operate.
By agreeing to take on its ballooning debts, a Premier League wage bill, and a half-finished stadium on the Liverpool waterfront, 777 Partners has essentially committed to injecting hundreds of millions of dollars into the club.
The question remains: Can 777 Partners deliver on its promises, or will its financial fitness prove to be a stumbling block in its Premier League ambitions? Only time will tell.