777 Partners joins US investors chasing big returns in football
The investment firm founded by securitization experts in 2015 has grown to an $8 billion portfolio of 60 companies without managing any third-party funds and still sees big potential returns, notably in football clubs, from applying the discipline of structured finance to operating businesses.
Americans love football. They can’t get enough of it. Not that gridiron game of theirs that intercuts interminable stoppages with brief spasms of choreographed violence – that still draws plenty of spectators to the NFL and consumers to screens, but it isn’t where the real excitement is.
No, US investors – particularly private equity investors – are committing more and more capital to the world’s biggest sport, association football, and are still hoping to acquire bargains that might generate spectacular returns.
And it’s not just the rags-to-riches Hollywood fable of actors Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds buying non-league Wrexham AFC in 2020 and taking the club back to professional status, or famed quarterback Tom Brady investing this week in Birmingham City, alongside Knighthead Capital Management, the hedge fund of former Goldman Sachs distressed credit trader Thomas Wagner.
In the English Premier League, US investors have long owned what were historically the three most successful football clubs. The Glazer family acquired a majority of Manchester United in 2005; Fenway Sports acquired Liverpool FC in 2010 from its previous American owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks; and Stan Kroenke first invested in Arsenal in 2007 and acquired a controlling stake in 2011.
More recently, in 2022, Todd Boehly – the founder of investment firm Eldridge who made his fortune in the heyday of whole business securitization at Guggenheim Partners – together with Clearlake Capital acquired Chelsea FC from a sanctioned Russian oligarch under whose ownership the west London club claimed 18 trophies in 19 years.