For the last few months, Fenway Sports Group has been seeking a partner to buy into Liverpool FC. In the beginning, it seemed like everything was possible, including selling the entire club. Now, it seems like John Henry and the group is looking for some sort of strategic partner to buy a minority stake.
The Telegraph reported that Liverpool is targeting major media companies to maybe be that strategic partner. While they didn’t go out on a limb with this, The Telegraph mentioned Liberty Media as a company that could invest.
Liberty Media owns, among many things, Sirius XM, Live Nation, Formula 1, and the Atlanta Braves. Even though Liberty declined to comment on their interest in Liverpool or FSG, it was the only company named in the article. Since they’re named, let’s entertain this hypothetical and figure out if Liberty Media would or could invest in one of the top soccer clubs in the world.
Two potential pitfalls could prevent Liberty and FSG from working together. One, while their ownership of the Braves won’t prevent Liberty from buying into Liverpool, it would likely prevent them from investing in FSG as a whole. With Liberty owning the Braves and FSG owning the Red Sox, that’s going to be an issue if Liberty wants more than Liverpool.
Two, Liberty’s ownership of Sirius XM can be a potential conflict of interest as they broadcast Premier League matches. There is precedent that a Premier League rights holder was prevented from buying a club, most notably Rupert Murdoch and Sky trying to buy Manchester United in 1998. Granted, that was 25 years ago and the landscape has changed. In addition, Liberty isn’t as polarizing as Rupert Murdoch and Liberty may have a loophole as PL rights go through talkSPORT and talkSPORT has a deal with Sirius XM. Despite all that, if Liberty tries to invest in Liverpool, it probably won’t be a smooth transaction.
That being said, based on what Liberty Media and FSG own, collaboration makes sense for both sides. Both companies have a major focus on the racing side of the sports industry. Liberty owns Formula 1 and 30% of Meyer Shank Racing, an IndyCar and IMSA team who recently won the Indy 500 and Rolex 24 at Daytona. FSG owns racing sim iRacing as well as one-third of NASCAR team RFK Racing. There is enough on the racing side for both companies to work together.
Another reason a Liberty investment makes sense is Liberty buying into Liverpool gets them access to LeBron James. James is a part owner of FSG and in turn, FSG invested in his and Maverick Carter’s SpringHill Company. A company like Liberty Media buying into a team also owned by James would help the two sides work out any potential future deals.
And then there’s the obvious reason Liberty Media would want to invest in a soccer club like Liverpool. They see an opportunity to invest in a big club to increase funding and make them better. Not to mention, with media rights fees rising each cycle, the established Premier League clubs are going to keep increasing in value. If Liberty doesn’t get in now, it’s just going to get more expensive.
Could Liberty Media buy into Liverpool? There are a lot of reasons why it makes sense, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if this happened. There are reasons why it may not and could not happen, and there are other potential parties interested in buying into the club who could be chosen, but it feels like if both sides can make this work, it’ll be the way to go.