10/10/2023 28comments  |  Jump to last

Another article on 777 Partners in the New York Times:

More than a dozen current or former employees, club officials and others who have done business with 777 revealed new details and questions about the sources of its financing. The people asked not to be named because of relationships with the company.

In interviews, they also shared details about unmet obligations and unpaid bills, and wondered if the company has the resources to manage a global network of clubs carrying hundreds of millions of dollars in debts and obligations.

» Read the full article at New York Times

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Tony Everan
1 Posted 10/10/2023 at 13:54:00
Full article posted by someone on Grand Old Team ;

The Mystery Company With One Foot in the Premier League
777 Partners had been scooping up big-name soccer teams for two years when it bid for Everton. Doubts about its finances could kill the deal.

By Tariq Panja
Oct. 10, 2023, 12:00 a.m. ET

The acquisitions came so quickly that it was hard to keep up. An agreement to buy the oldest soccer team in Italy. An investment in one of the most popular teams in Brazil. Stakes in well-known clubs in Belgium and France, Germany and Australia.

Each new deal was trumpeted by the Miami-based investment company, 777 Partners, that was hurriedly snapping them up.

Then, in September, the investment group revealed its biggest deal yet: an agreement to acquire a controlling stake in Everton F.C., a founding member of the Premier League and one of the oldest soccer clubs in England.
Suddenly, everyone in soccer had heard of 777 Partners. Beyond its name, though, little was known about the company. It said it had $10 billion in assets, but was so closely held that verifying that claim was difficult. Lawsuits against the firm raised concerns for potential partners. A string of unpaid bills, some as recent as this month, raised more.

Now, in bidding for a place in the Premier League, 777 Partners faces something it had previously avoided: a forensic review of its holdings, its finances and its brash American co-owner, Josh Wander, who in one recent interview said he was “more serious about investing” in soccer than anyone in history.

His company's bid for control of Everton, an acquisition that would eventually require hundreds of millions of dollars in assumed debt and other obligations, is by no means a sure thing. The Premier League, England's Football Association and an independent British government regulator, the Financial Control Authority, all must approve the proposed deal, a process that is likely to take months.

What they discover could have implications not only for the future of Everton, a fallen, money-losing giant, but also for rest of the financially troubled teams in the 777 network.

The stakes are just as high for the Premier League, which is trying to prove it can oversee its clubs' finances amid talk of government regulation, and for an interconnected global soccer economy reliant on the simple premise that teams can and will pay their bills.

None of the soccer or public agencies currently assessing 777 Partners would discuss their review or a timetable for its conclusion.

Mr. Wander, the co-founder and public face of the company, declined multiple requests to be interviewed for this article, though he published a long letter to fans on Everton's website on Saturday in which he acknowledged fans had been discomfited by media reports about the company's businesses. But those reports, he said, were “misleading.”
“The truth is far more boring than the fiction,” he wrote.

“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,” a spokesman for 777 wrote in an emailed statement. In the letter to fans, Mr. Wander wrote that he would share “player recruitment, data analytics and commercial development resources,” with the other teams in the group.

More than a dozen current or former employees, club officials and others who have done business with 777, however, revealed new details and questions about the sources of its financing. The people asked not to be named because of relationships with the company.

In interviews, they also shared details about unmet obligations and unpaid bills, and wondered if the company has the resources to manage a global network of clubs carrying hundreds of millions of dollars in debts and obligations.

A successful takeover of Everton would bring the number of clubs in 777's portfolio to eight. The teams in its existing stable are well known: Genoa in Italy, Hertha Berlin in Germany, Vasco da Gama in Brazil. All are different in size and ambition but shared a common theme before attracting the interest of 777: They were all in financial crisis.

Mr. Wander, 42, and his co-founder Steve Pasko, a Wall Street veteran two decades his senior, would not have been seen as a typical sports team investors when they started 777 Partners in 2015. At the time, the company's core investments were related to the world of structured settlements, an opaque industry in which recipients of long-term annuities, typically the result of compensation claims, cash them out for lump sums of immediate cash.

The firm quickly branched out into other sectors, including low-cost airlines and litigation financing, according to Gary Chodes, who served as a board member of a 777 subsidiary until 2017. He said he parted on good terms, but that the firm he left had few profitable businesses. So he noticed when 777 started collecting soccer teams and committing to assume their sizable debts through loans and other upfront payments.

“If I was to ask, ‘Is there a little bit of mystery as to how Josh would generate three quarters of a billion dollars to buy a sports team from the businesses he owns in 777?' — I would say that's somewhat of a mystery,” he said.

In past interviews, Mr. Wander has painted a picture of a sprawling and successful business, one that manages $10 billion in assets, counts 60 subsidiaries across a range of industries: sports, insurance, aviation, media. Many of the company's financial details are difficult to verify since the business is private and its financial structure, current and former staff members said, is closely controlled by Mr. Wander and Mr. Pasko. Last weekend, for example, it announced the sale of one of its insurance businesses without identifying the buyers or the price.

The company relies on loans to operate many of its businesses, according to the current and former employees. One of the biggest lenders to 777 is A-Cap, a private company operating in the insurance and investment business, three people said. A-Cap did not respond to a request for comment.

“Not all of our 60 businesses will be profitable at any one time, but the fundamental underlying business performance of the 777 Group is strong,” Mr. Wander wrote in Saturday's letter to fans, adding the company was not a “typical private equity firm.”

Yet as 777 executives have spoken of their ambition and the scale of their operations, some of the businesses they run, including their sports teams, have reported missed payments related to agreed-upon funding schedules and even routine operating expenses.

In England, for example, the chairman of the British Basketball League, in which 777 owns a 45 percent share, wrote to its founders on Sept. 6 warning that the league was at risk of bankruptcy unless the firm delivered a late payment of about $1 million. Those funds eventually arrived.

In Belgium, according to reporting by the soccer magazine Josimar, the lack of clarity around 777's finances spooked Belgian soccer's licensing officials enough that they considered refusing to allow the company to continue operating the 125-year-old club it owns, Standard Liège. Eventually a compromise was found, and the team was granted a license.

In Brazil, Vasco da Gama had been anxiously awaiting a scheduled payment of about $23 million due the same week as the basketball league was expecting its funds. Without the money, Vasco has been unable to make outstanding payments to its suppliers and to rival teams owed in past deals for players. When it missed some of the payments, soccer's governing body prohibited the club from signing new players until its debts were paid.

Through its spokesman, 777 said it had already delivered much of the money required in its payment schedule with Vasco. It also said it was ahead of “ahead of schedule” and “beyond our original commitment” to the British Basketball League. But to some outsiders, the repeated issues involving money suggested an exercise in financial plate-spinning rather than the kind of healthy, well-capitalized owner a Premier League team requires.

Away from the soccer field, its co-founder, Mr. Wander, built an image of a risk taker with a knack for making money.

One former associate, Rhonda Bentzen, recalled how Mr. Wander would request loans from colleagues at a structured settlements business he had set up with the promise of profits in a matter of days. “I did it with him a few times and he absolutely doubled the money every single time,” Ms. Bentzen said. But once, she said, she watched Mr. Wander drop about $5,000 in a Las Vegas slot machine, lose it all in less than a minute and “not bat an eye.”

In the early years of his business career, Mr. Wander was shadowed by a cocaine-trafficking charge from his college days at the University of Miami. After he pleaded no contest in 2003, he spent more than a decade on probation. A spokesman for the company said his plea, and the successful completion of his probation, meant he “was not convicted of anything.”

Court records reveal other details about Mr. Wander, his company and money. In 2012, the Bellagio casino sued Mr. Wander for failing to pay back a $54,500 cash advance. In March, American Express went to court seeking $324,000.89 that had been charged to a 777 Partners credit card. The spokesman for 777 said both matters were resolved. Court documents show the Bellagio repayment remained outstanding for at least six years.

Just last week, a former business partner in 777's airline business made an allegation of fraud against the company in the Court of Chancery in Delaware. The filing said the firm and a subsidiary, Phoenicia L.L.C., “are part of a web of companies 777 uses to move around money and assets to operate and conceal a sprawling fraudulent enterprise.” A 777 spokesman declined to respond to the accusation, citing a company policy not to comment on litigation.

The pattern of late and delayed payments, rather than any lawsuits, raises the biggest doubts about 777's suitability to run Everton, said Keiron Maguire, a lecturer in the management school at the University of Liverpool and a specialist in soccer finance. “It's a red flag to a potentially more significant cash-flow issue, or incompetent management,” he said.

Money is of paramount concern at Everton at the moment. The club's current owner, Farhad Moshiri, has spent close to $1 billion on Everton since purchasing the team in 2016, and 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, as well as 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. Last weekend, they saw the job ahead first hand, taking in an Everton match from seats in the front row of the director's box.

Executives at Vasco da Gama in Brazil were watching. It had not escaped their attention that the $25 million loan that 777 Partners gave Everton last month was similar to an amount that was, at that moment, still owed to Vasco.

On Thursday, a month after it was due, part of the payment arrived, with a promise that the balance would be paid on Friday morning. But it was not paid. The holdup, 777 Partners said, was a bank holiday in the United States. The missing $7 million, the company assured Vasco, would be there this week.

Barry Hesketh
2 Posted 10/10/2023 at 14:17:03
Our neighbours had bad owners who nearly took them into administration and what happened? They got more serious owners with a business plan and the financial clout to not only rescue them, but improve them.

We on the other hand, have had very poor owners, who, we are told, have led us to the brink of administration, yet what do we get, some Johnny-come-lately company who could do more damage than the current owners.

I know there's a great deal of difference between the clubs with regards to profile etc but are we really just another Birmingham City or Sheffield Wednesday in the making?

Stephen Vincent
3 Posted 10/10/2023 at 14:48:41
It seems that our prospective new owners have looked at the Abu Dhabi, City Group success and decided that the multi-club model, with all its creative accounting possibilities, is a sure-fire hit. Regrettably, they do not appear to possess the financial clout to sufficiently blur the lines amongst their charges.

It would not surprise me though if at some point we wind up having our shirts sponsored by an outback Australian airline for an outrageous sum and be playing in the Buff Dubs Stadium.

I am also curious as to how the purchase of EFC will take place. Will Moshiri surrender all his shares immediately, or will he surrender a proportion of his shareholding each time 777 make a payment? Does Moshiri even accept American Express?

If the latter, then this could turn out to be the most drawn-out takeover in British corporate history.

James Marshall
4 Posted 10/10/2023 at 15:16:22
I wouldn't be at all surprised if 777 turns out to be a massive Ponzi/pyramid scheme and we get royally fucked.
Kieran Kinsella
5 Posted 10/10/2023 at 15:21:18
There was a bank holiday the first Monday of September here in the United States. How on Earth could that affect a payment due last Thursday over a month later?

That sounds like the kind of excuse teenage kids make when their bank account gets overdrawn.

Clive Rogers
6 Posted 10/10/2023 at 15:57:29
It sounds like none of their businesses are really successful and they hide this by moving money and debts around.
Pat Kelly
7 Posted 10/10/2023 at 16:06:53
We all wanted more creativity at Everton. Be careful what you wish for.
Dave Abrahams
8 Posted 10/10/2023 at 16:21:39
Michael/ Lyndon are you doing some sort of survey or something?

I've been asked to log in three times in the half hour?

James Hughes
9 Posted 10/10/2023 at 16:37:39
Hi Pat, I don't think anyone wished for an absent owner who leaves control to a fraudster. Who behaved like a kid in a sweet shop when making transfer decisions.

I do believe that 777 Partners will take the new stadium and bend us over, not saying the rest…

Dennis Stevens
10 Posted 10/10/2023 at 16:44:08
I didn't want more creativity, Pat. I wanted more competence.

I didn't even want a new stadium, it would be much cheaper to have redeveloped the old one.

Jay Harris
11 Posted 10/10/2023 at 16:56:21
Very worrying signs but not much we can do.

I believe Moshiri and Usmanov want out of Everton and are enabling these sharks to take over so they can walk away.

Fortunately, most of our debt is due to Moshiri but, as James said, the only real asset we have is the new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock, so either party can cash in on this at any point.

I expect a Finch Farm Kenwright deal on a leaseback arrangement over 50 years.

Nick Page
12 Posted 10/10/2023 at 17:51:43
Sounds like a pyramid scheme to me.

Kenwright Out!

Brendan McLaughlin
13 Posted 10/10/2023 at 17:52:53
Pat #7,

All the finance geeks on TW are smirking...

John Keating
14 Posted 10/10/2023 at 18:02:16
Have to agree with James at 4.

The more info regarding 777 Partners that comes out, has all the hallmarks of a classic pyramid scam.

Unfortunately, there will only be one outcome…

Will Mabon
15 Posted 10/10/2023 at 18:26:57
Similar stadium fears for me, James.

The stadium is the asset. A stadium is the base, the home, the tangible physical existence of a club; all else is transient resource of varying tenure.

I don't want our club to become an artefact of managed financial products and solutions, an identity teetering atop an "exciting" modern vision.

When Goodison is gone and if we don't own the stadium... how would that be?

Of course football in general has been pushed along the road in recent years. All but a few are vulnerable to who-knows-what and it won't be easy.

John Hall
16 Posted 12/10/2023 at 05:50:16
Ponzi written all over this set of chancers.

It seems they have very little money and seem to move funds from one place to another to appear competent.

Financial money plate spinning, as mentioned in the New York Times article, seems about right.

Colin Glassar
17 Posted 12/10/2023 at 18:52:08
So they borrow from Peter to pay Paul? This is so Everton.

Bill Kenwright will probably end up as their Chairman as well.

Paul Birmingham
18 Posted 12/10/2023 at 19:02:35
Surely Everton, for the sake of the club's future, will get a buyer from elsewhere.

Time to start a new era with new owners but not 777 Partners, and Kenwright must resign asap.

The longer he stays on, I don't see any other buyers showing interest, as his watch has seen the club slump to its lowest esteem ever, imho.


Duncan McDine
22 Posted 12/10/2023 at 19:26:52
If only Kenwright took some advice from Dot Cotton before she pegged it. That's how you run a laundrette like a pro.
Kevin Prytherch
23 Posted 12/10/2023 at 19:38:41
Unfortunately it's not as easy as just finding another investment. Bill was searching 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for about 10 years before he found one.

What chance do we have finding one in a matter of weeks?

Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
24 Posted 12/10/2023 at 19:45:18
Six months before I was born, back in 1954, Everton were promoted to the First Division after spending 2 years in the Second Division.

Much as we suffer today - Paul, I would take it that August 1952 to May 1954 was an even lower point.

Paul Birmingham
25 Posted 12/10/2023 at 19:58:19
Hi Phil, that's a fair call out. My dad used to say the same, but it's a bit before my time. Hopefully a new era dawns soon, and Evertonians will be always looking forward.

Just read the Echo, I wish no ill health on any person, but now Kenwright should step down for health reasons, and for the good of Everton Football Club.

Phil (Kelsall) Roberts
26 Posted 12/10/2023 at 20:01:35
Bit before my time as well Paul - was not really aware and all I knew when I did take an interest in football (around 61-62) that we were the only club on Merseyside as the other professional club were in Division 2.
Christopher Timmins
27 Posted 12/10/2023 at 20:08:54
I wish the Chairman a full and complete recovery from his illness.

I also wish that he now steps down as Chairman with immediate effect. It's a course of action he should have taken a long time ago.

Trevor Bailey
28 Posted 12/10/2023 at 20:12:56
If it's true about Bill Kenwright, and I'm sure it is, should we not be hoping for the man's recovery? Cancer is horrific and most of us over a certain age (I'm 65) will probably know someone with this awful disease, and /or someone who has sadly died from it.

My dad, nan and grandad sadly died from it. Now must be the time that Bill says enough is enough. I don't agree with what he's done at Everton, but hope he gets well soon and announces his retirement.

Dave Abrahams
29 Posted 12/10/2023 at 20:21:49
Phil (24),

Sorry Phil it was 1951-54 three long years, but not as long as Liverpool's eight lovely years there!

Paul Birmingham
30 Posted 12/10/2023 at 23:10:13
Well, in Dave, superb.


Paul Birmingham
31 Posted 12/10/2023 at 23:18:30
Phil, all in. M8, I’m with you.

For me spiritually, the last 30 years, has bled the soul, but Evertonians, never give up, and get to every game any where by hook, crook, and skill.

This season on the playing side, there are signs on the road to recovery, and better days, ahead, for EFC.

This next Derby will be a good one for Everton.


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