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Everton reporter notebook: 777 Partners co-founder Josh Wander out to convince sceptics as takeover looms

777 Partners co-founder Josh Wander and Farhad Moshiri speak exclusively to Sky Sports News reporter Alan Myers; A new owner to take Everton forward and into its new stadium on the banks of the River Mersey is required; 777 Partners hope to fill that position and convince the sceptics

Everton will head into the 209th Merseyside league derby at Anfield this week buoyed by a confidence-boosting victory, and performance, against Bournemouth last time out, with manager Sean Dyche proclaiming that fans are seeing an improvement in performances even if results have not always followed.

However, off the field, uncertainty is still the underlying feeling most people involved at the club are experiencing.

The proposed takeover of Farhad Moshiri's majority shareholding by Miami based 777 Partners is currently navigating its way through the regulatory process involving the Premier League, the FA and the Financial Conduct Authority, a process which is expected to take until the end of the year to complete.

777 Partners have been the subject of some negative publicity since the deal with Moshiri was announced in September, with several different stories surrounding them spreading scepticism amongst some Everton supporters.

I understand that they have already supported the club with up to £65m in funding yet the company are reluctant to speak publicly, in detail, about its plans for the club and its future investment except to say that they are excited at the prospect of becoming owners and that they will communicate more fully at the appropriate time.

Wander was speaking exclusively to Sky Sports
Image: Wander was speaking exclusively to Sky Sports

But speaking exclusively to Sky Sports News, Moshiri has reiterated his belief that the US group is the right choice.

He told us: "The more time that I have spent with the 777 team, the more my confidence increases that we have found the right people to take the club forward in the modern era.

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"They are highly professional and deliver exactly when they say they will, and I look forward to them achieving all their regulatory approvals and proceeding to completion on the timetable we set."

777 say they want to respect the due process they are working through with authorities, and it wouldn't be appropriate to comment in detail until that has been completed.

Everton's majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri
Image: Everton's majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri

We contacted co-founder Josh Wander who, for the above reasons, did not want to talk about the Everton deal but on the recent criticism from fans at both Hertha Berlin and Standard Liege - and other negative headlines - he told us: "We're humble enough to acknowledge that we don't always get everything right the first time and we have learned a lot over the past few years.

"At the same time, I would challenge anyone to say we have not improved the sporting and financial performance of every club we've invested in, and done so in a fairly short period of time."

Everton's official Fan Advisory Board published a list of questions they'd like answered by the group ahead of its acquisition of the club. 777 have engaged in private dialogue with a number of stakeholders already but see those questions being answered as part of the regulatory process as the immediate priority.

So who are 777 Partners?

777 Partners portfolio of clubs

Club Country Acquired Shareholding (%)
Seville Spain - La Liga 2018 15
Genoa Italy - Serie A 2021 100
Standard Liege Belgium - Pro League 2022 100
Vasco de Gama Brazil - Serie A 2022 70
Hertha Berlin Germany - Bundesliga 2 2023 79
Melbourne Victory Australia - A League 2022 20
Red Star Paris France - National League 2022 100

They describe themselves as having a "deep sector knowledge, operational expertise and permanent capital to create a unique proposition for founders, management, employees and investors" - all of which will be needed to purchase a Premier League football club.

They have around 60 companies around the world dealing in a diverse range of business and with investments totalling around £12bn.

The move into the Sports Business came in the form of investment into sports rights initially and quickly moved onto acquiring shareholdings in several Football clubs along with investment in the British Basketball League and London Lions.

777 are involved in seven clubs as they continue to build a multi-club model business in which Everton, should they get approval to complete a takeover, would be arguably the leading name.

Andriy Shevchenko was unsuccessful at Genoa
Image: Andriy Shevchenko was unsuccessful at Genoa

Of those seven clubs 777's largest investment has been with Genoa who were 18th in Italy's Serie A at the time of their takeover. One of the first decisions they made was to install a huge name as manager with Andriy Shevchenko being appointed within weeks.

However that didn't work out, with the former Chelsea striker winning just one and losing seven games in his short time. He was sacked after just two months at the club, and Genoa were relegated that season.

Insiders say that was a mistake and a stark lesson for the new owners, one they are unlikely to make again. They turned to their U19 team manager Alberto Gilardino as first-team coach, and he guided them to promotion back to Serie A in his first season.

Genoa's CEO Andres Blazquez spoke exclusively to Sky Sports News and explained what 777 have brought to the club.

"We came into a very chaotic environment, with the coach wanting to go, a roster (squad) that was worth nothing, basically made up of many last minute signings which cost over €10m in agents fees, and it was proven later they were worth nothing."

He continued: "We have built a team that wants to progress, we didn't build a team just to survive, the goal here is not just to be safe, the goal is to do better than that.

"There were many, many, many issues here. The way things were done here was a very authoritative type of thing, where one person decided everything, what we have done is to create a situation where we brought in new people.

"We replaced some people but we also brought out the talent in people that were already here, from the receptionists to the physiotherapists.

Moshiri and chairman Bill Kenwright in happier times
Image: Moshiri and chairman Bill Kenwright in happier times

"We are working very hard on the financial side of things and this year, for the first time maybe in Genoa's history, certainly in the recent decades, we will be very close to breaking even by not only controlling costs but also increasing revenues."

Filippo Grimaldi, a journalist for Gazzetta Dello Sport, has covered Genoa for a number of years and has followed the takeover at the club. He told Sky Sports News how the fans have taken to the new owners.

"In a very positive way," said Grimaldi. "The Genoa fans came from almost 20 years of management which in recent seasons had provided little satisfaction. The arrival of the 777 Partners brought a positive atmosphere of renewal also because it was supported by the results.

The mood has been lifted at Genoa in recent times
Image: The mood has been lifted at Genoa in recent times

"The 777 group arrived in Genoa in autumn 2021 and even though Genoa was relegated to Serie B that year, the following season they first managed the transfer market and the results arrived.

"They achieved immediate promotion to Serie A and, this year they have a decidedly more competitive team than the recent past. Now, there is never less than 32,000 fans at the stadium every home game. That's never happened in the history of the club."

However, both Hertha Berlin and Standard Liege fans have staged protests at recent matches expressing dissatisfaction with 777 Partners, Hertha fans not happy with the commercial aspects of the company

777 Partners company model explained

Standard Liege fans call out 777 during their side's 1-1 draw with RWDM
Image: Standard Liege fans call out 777 during their side's 1-1 draw with RWDM

The company's structure model is very different to the traditional English football club model.

They typically have a CEO who reports to the 777 board, with a 'committee' style approach towards all areas of the business from such things as kit sales to player trading and where all participants are challenged on each other's suggestions and ideas.

That model implemented at Everton would be a sea change to the past and current set-ups. They believe the multi-club model will provide benefits from a number of areas such as financial expertise and an extensive talent pool with regards recruiting and scouting.

A new owner is needed to take the club forward
Image: A new owner is needed to take the club forward
Moshiri is using all his available funding on the stadium
Image: Moshiri is using all his available funding on the stadium

Don Dransfield, who is part of the 777 team, was formerly Chief Strategy Officer at Manchester City and is experienced in dealing across a number of different clubs within a multi-club set up as well as having experience of the Premier League.

Recruitment in the initial four to five years of Moshiri's ownership has arguably led the club to where it is today, there is no doubt the billionaire put his money where his mouth was during that time, but the players brought in for often overhyped fees resulted in a mismatch squad which numerous managers failed to find the right formula with.

Any football person will tell you recruitment is where you succeed or fail in the game and the money spent has delivered far less in the way of success that it should have brought.

Everton are set to leave their famous old ground
Image: Everton are set to leave their famous old ground

777 co-founders Wander and Steve Pasko met with Everton boss Dyche and director of football Kevin Thelwell at the club's training ground prior to a trip to Goodison Park for the game against Luton Town recently. The indications are that they were impressed with both men and liked what they heard.

The big money of the Moshiri era has run out in the last couple of seasons, with the businessman using all his available funding on the stadium build and the club running costs.

The war in Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions have meant the support from his long time business partner and friend Alisher Usmanov through numerous sponsorship agreements has gone.

That means a new owner to take the club forward and into its new stadium on the banks of the River Mersey is required. 777 Partners hope to fill that position and, in doing so, convince the sceptics amongst the fan base to go on that journey with them.

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