Everton have found prospective owners in the form of 777… but with claims of fraud and racketeering, and a series of lawsuits, there’s a colourful (and contentious) history to the Toffees’ potential new owners
- Farhad Moshiri has entered negotiations over selling to Wander’s 777 Partners
- Wander has been heard bragging about how he is preparing to take over Everton
- The company also hold shares in Sevilla, Genoa and Hertha Berlin
In unguarded moments over the past few weeks Josh Wander has been heard bragging about how he is about a write a cheque for several hundred million pounds to take control of Everton, a boast that must have come as music to the ears of the club’s current owner, Farhad Moshiri.
The Iranian has been looking for additional investment since his former business partner, Alisher Usmanov, was sanctioned by the UK government 18 months ago and has now entered negotiations over selling to Wander’s American private equity company, 777 Partners.
As co-founder of 777 with Steve Pasko, Wander is a colourful character who likes to pair a baseball cap with business suits, party with NBA stars such as LeBron James and claims his companies control over £5billion of investments.
The less salubrious side of a remarkable back-story was detailed by Josimar magazine this summer, including three arrests between 2003 and 2018 (although only the first of these resulted in charges), a history of court hearings into unpaid debts and a fortune largely built in the controversial world of structured settlements. These often involve victims of personal injury being offered a lump sum in cash up front in return for their regular insurance payments.
Wander is not planning to put up the money for Everton himself however, the first potential obstacle that could halt an extremely complex takeover bid. 777 made much of their money from pay-day loans and invested in budget airlines, with both enterprises attracting a series of lawsuits in the United States featuring allegations of fraud and racketeering. Many remain ongoing, although Wander has not been personally accused of any wrongdoing.
Josh Wander (pictured) has been heard bragging about how he is about a write a cheque for several hundred million pounds to take control of Everton
As co-founder of 777 with Steve Pasko, Wander is a colourful character who likes to pair a baseball cap with business suits
Farhad Moshiri is understood to be seeking an equity payment of £500m for overall control
777 have been working with Tifosy Capital & Advisory to raise the required funding since June, but Mail Sport has been told that they have yet to do so.
While 777 are already majority owners of five clubs including Genoa and Standard Liege, and hold minority stakes in Sevilla and Melbourne Victory, nothing in their seven-year involvement in football suggests they have the funds required to buy and run a club such as Everton.
Moshiri is understood to be seeking an equity payment of £500m for overall control, the club have debts of £225m and several hundred million is needed to finish the stadium.
While 777’s company accounts have not been made public the sectors in which they made their money are suffering significant downturns.
Their pay-day loan and structured settlement businesses were built up when American interest rates were close to zero, whereas they are now 5.5 per cent, while the aviation industry has also been badly affected by Covid-19.
The finances of 777’s other clubs also appear strained, although a company employee pointed out to Mail Sport that they bought clubs who had been mismanaged and that turning them round will take time.
None of the clubs are currently profitable, with Genoa, Sevilla and Hertha Berlin posting losses of close to £200m between them in their most recent accounts.
Standard Liege fans have held protests against 777’s ownership at games in Belgium this season, while in another intriguing twist Genoa yesterday announced the issue of a bond aiming to raise £4m for the club in a glossy video fronted by Wander.
Everton’s complex finances represent another potential hurdle. A previous offer from another American firm, MSP Sports Capital, to buy 25 per cent of the club collapsed last month because of an existing loan taken out by Everton from Rights and Media Funding Limited, who were opposed to the deal and could yet block a takeover attempt by 777.
Genoa, Sevilla and Hertha Berlin posted losses of close to £200m between them in their most recent accounts
To complicate matters further MSP have since loaned Everton over £100m to help with stadium costs.
The takeover proposal from 777 has yet to be put to the Premier League, whose initial priority will be assessing the proof and source of their funding.
The Premier League would also scrutinise the origins of the money that has been pumped into 777’s other clubs however, which could throw up additional qualifications. While Chelsea’s takeover last year was rushed in weeks the due diligence on Everton could take several months.
Wander’s suitability to become a director of a Premier League club would also be assessed, with government sources even expressing concern about some of his companies’ alleged activities.
His “no contest” plea to three drugs offences 20 years ago is unlikely to be a disqualifying factor as the conviction is spent, but the Premier League may also look at the numerous allegations made against 777 and sister companies in the American courts.
A spokesperson for 777 told Mail Sport that the allegations formed part of a corporate claim against some of the 60 companies they own and that Wander is not personally indicted. He has strongly denied any involvement in the loan contracts that have led to the court cases and has expressed sympathy with the alleged victims.
Ironically given his recent bullishness Wander kept his head down at the high point of his career in football last week, declining to be photographed or interviewed after being elected to the Board of the European Club Association in Berlin. Owning a Premier League club is unlikely to permit such anonymity.
777 deny the allegations and none have been proven in court.
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