Kennedy pointed out that the result could be a previously unseen stakeholder mix, with an interested party buying into Liverpool as a minority shareholder and buying enough shares over an extended period to gain majority control and become the new owner.
Kennedy described the exploration process, in which the club enlisted the services of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs to help with the details of a possible transaction, when it was still in the “early days”. Kennedy declined to name applicants.
FSG President Mike Gordon is managing the transaction, a new role for him as he steps away from more direct oversight of the club’s activities on and off the pitch.
“It’s still early days to explore opportunities for potential investments in Liverpool,” Kennedy said in the lobby of the Midtown skyscraper where Major League Baseball is headquartered, and Kennedy along with FSG principal owner John Henry (who owns the Globe) and FSG Chairman Tom Werner, attend owner meetings.
“Mike Gordon has done an exceptional job of leading the club over the last ten years. He will retire from that role and Billy Hogan will take on more and more. Billy is someone we’re particularly proud of in the Red Sox front office, he grew up in our organization.”
FSG bought Liverpool in 2010 for $493 million. Last fall, Forbes estimated the franchise was worth $4.45 billion, making it the 22nd most valuable sports franchise in the world, higher than the Red Sox at number 30 ($3.9 billion).
In recent years, FSG has been open about its growth strategy. It has ventured into real estate in the form of a new concert hall behind Fenway Park and also a residential and commercial project around the baseball stadium that will transform the neighborhood.
A year ago, the FSG bought the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins and was open about their desire to win an NBA expansion franchise.
FSG is also interested in one day buying an NFL franchise, but that’s impossible now and in the near future given the NFL’s restrictions on private equity within ownership groups.
How does FSG manage to sell its most valuable property while remaining in growth mode?
“Great companies grow by adding value to their business,” Kennedy said. “One way to increase that value from time to time is to sell assets or add investors. Does that mean FSG will sell Liverpool? I do not know. It is John Henry, Tom Werner and Mike Gordon’s job to lead Fenway Sports Group responsibly and they felt this was an ideal time to explore potential opportunities to invest in the club.”
Kennedy said that Liverpool’s potential sale had nothing to do with the club’s interest in owning an NBA franchise. He also said, “There is nothing new on this front.”
“We’ve expressed interest in investing in other sports over the years, including the NBA,” Kennedy said. “We have a lot of respect for that [NBA] commissioner [Adam Silver] and we have worked with NBA owners over the years. Nothing is imminent. In terms of expansion, the league has yet to determine what it will do on that front.”
Prior to Kennedy’s comments, the closest FSG came to discussing a possible sale, which was first reported by The Athletic, was a statement the group released at the time of the news.
“There have been a number of ownership changes and rumors of ownership changes at EPL clubs in recent times and inevitably we are regularly asked about Liverpool’s ownership of Fenway Sports Group,” the statement read.
“FSG has frequently received expressions of interest from third parties wishing to become shareholders in Liverpool. FSG have previously said that given the right conditions, we would consider new shareholders if it was in the best interests of Liverpool as a club.
“FSG remains fully committed to Liverpool’s success, both on and off the pitch.”