4 years in, can Moshiri apply the lessons of Ancelotti & Brands to the Everton Board?

It seems much longer than four years when a relatively fresh-faced Farhad Moshiri was announced as Everton’s new major shareholder having acquired 49.9% of the club through the purchase of Robert Earl’s entire shareholding and a significant proportion of Bill Kenwright’s, Jon Woods’ and Arthur Abercrombie’s shares. In addition he had agreed to acquire the remainder of Woods’ and Abercrombie’s shares entirely in the coming years and more of Kenwright’s leaving the former major shareholder finally with 5%. As a result he now has complete control of the club with 77.2% of the 35,000 shares held.

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He bought a club with serious difficulties, heavily indebted (net debt of £54.8 million) a desperately out of date stadium and a negative balance sheet (£43.4 million), a critically under-performing commercial arm, and a football team which although it reached two semi-finals in 2016 was soon to lose its manager of three years, Roberto Martinez.

The Board at the time of his share purchase reflected the off-field stupor in which the club found itself, consisting of Kenwright, Woods, Earl and Elstone who whilst a board member was not formally a director at the time of Moshiri’s acquisition.

Board changes

Moshiri quickly made a number of changes at Board level, Earl resigned on 9th March 2016, Elstone and a newcomer Ryazantsev, an experienced banker and known associate of Moshiri’s, appointed on the following day 10th March 2016.

Further appointments followed on 13 July 2016, Denise Barrett-Baxendale, an internal appointment as deputy CEO followed by Keith Harris, an experienced football consultant and previous director of Wembley Stadium and board member of Cardiff City.

What happened on the pitch through the Koeman & Walsh years is documented at great length elsewhere followed by Allardyce and Silva until quite unbelievably the arrival of Ancelotti. The appointment of Steve Walsh as director of football in 2016 was in combination with Koeman a spectacularly awful decision which continues to cost the club today nearly 4 years on.

Two years of frenetic, unstructured, buying with no strategy and seemingly very little financial control, increased costs significantly at a rate much higher than our income growth. The resulting financial losses, combined with still largely moribund commercial growth required funding.

3 year aggregate financials

Player sales & Moshiri

The funding has come from two sources (i) Moshiri –  capital injections totaling £350 million and (ii) the continual sale of our most profitable and valuable player assets. In the three full financial years since Moshiri’s arrival player trading has contributed £160 million to the profit and loss account (with a further £60 million to date this financial year). The scale with which we have spent resources is staggering particularly when one considers the return achieved by that spending.

As a result of the misspending of the last three years the club now has to carefully manouvre itself around the Premier League profit and sustainability rules, and should European qualification occur, argue their case against the much more stringent UEFA FFP rules.

The effectiveness of the spend on players (plus the productivity of the club’s academy) can be judged by how much the squad has increased in value relative to the net spend of the club over a period. In the three full years since Moshiri has been here, plus trading to date this year, we’ve a net spend of £186.4 million. Our squad market value has increased by £176 million (source transfermarkt). This when we have young players developing (booked at no cost) and in a massively inflationary environment regarding player values.

Much has been made not only by critics of the club, but by the club itself with regards to the need for improving commercial performance. Some have pointed to the doubling since 2015/16 to a current total of £40.8 million. Strip out the USM payment of £12 million and the gain in three years is only £8.1 million.

Progress

Undoubtedly we’ve seen progress on the stadium, albeit the project was effectively re-booted in January 2018. The appointment of Colin Chong and the extensive use of external consultants has seen the club deliver against timetables since.

Finally in terms of reviewing Moshiri’s tenure, the appointment of Brands, after a slow start appears to be gaining momentum with his restructuring of the footballing operations and one hopes more discipline in the transfer markets regarding budgets and targeting suitable players.

The appointment of Ancelotti is a master stroke, and Moshiri plus whoever was involved in that can only be congratulated for their achievement.

Winners!

The lesson from the appointment of acknowledged industry leaders and experts such as Ancelotti and Brands is that through hiring the best people we achieve better outcomes.It is ultimately their performance either financially or by winning trophies that marks them out as the leaders in their chosen fields.

So it is in business. The most successful businesses are the ones who have the best people working for them, particularly in leadership roles. This won’t be new to Moshiri of course, the many businesses run under the USM holding structure must be full of the brightest and most able talents in their fields.

That being the case, why has that lesson not been applied to the Everton Board and senior management teams (Brands board appointment apart). Ultimately, in my opinion Moshiri’s failure to address this fundamental issue is his biggest shortcoming.

It’s a failure that has cost him personally, huge sums of money and the club at least two years of lost time, not only putting future financial constraints on the business but allowing our competitors to continue to widen the gap.

Board comparisons

I could have chosen any of the six largest clubs to compare their board composition against our own. The evidence is clear. The clubs we wish to compete with have huge advantages at board and executive level. I’ll chose the two where success is driven from a commercial perspective and one other a combination of commerce and success on the pitch:

Manchester United

Manchester United have long dominated the commercial performance table. Driven by an ambitious board in the early days of the Premier League and the club’s embodiment of Sir Alex Ferguson’s desire to win they mastered the art of local, national and international commercial partnering.

Their board is dominated by the Glazer family, the owners of Manchester United. Its purpose has been to provide sufficient funds for footballing success (albeit with diminished returns on the pitch in recent years), and to build sufficient income to meet their debt burden (caused by their leveraged ownership model) and increasingly to provide dividends to the Glazer family. The board is co-chaired by Avram and Joel Glazer both relatively quiet men with limited desire for public appearance or indeed scrutiny. The public face of the board is Edward Woodward, Executive Vice Chairman, a former investment banker, now senior administrator and presented as the driving force behind their commercial success. Interestingly he is increasingly coming under public scrutiny for the decisions made post Ferguson, and perhaps with the continued dominance of Manchester City.  The board has four other Glazer family members, a chief financial officer in Cliff Baty and three independent directors, Robert Leitao, Head of Rothschild’s Global Financial Advisory business, Manu Sawhney, with vast experience in Asia of media, rights, distribution, consumer products and setting up entertainment businesses, currently CEO of Singapore Sports Hub and John Hooks, with a distinguished career in luxury goods, now CEO of PGM and an advisor to McKinsey & Co.

The Managing Director of Manchester United is Richard Arnold, formerly commercial director at United and with a technology and telecommunications background prior to that.

Despite under-performance on the field, in financial terms Manchester United continue to perform strongly. Whilst there is concern from their supporters (and some shareholders) that their financial dominance is not reflected on the pitch they clearly remain well-resourced and the leading example of the effect of long term commercial strategic thinking.

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur have in recent years been considered very tough negotiators and have grown both on and off the pitch. Majority owned by Enic, (owned by Joe Lewis and Daniel Levy) the dominant figure on the Tottenham board is Executive Chairman Daniel Levy. His name has become synonymous with Tottenham’s rise through not only their tough, rigid pay policy, but their property development, new stadium build and increasingly higher profile commercial deals. The one significant missing piece in the Tottenham jigsaw continues to be a naming rights deal for their new stadium. 

Joining Levy on the board is a fellow Enic director, Matthew Collecott, a Chartered Accountant with extensive sports media and property development experience. In addition there is Donna-Maria Cullen, an expert in corporate and financial communications. She has been a board member since 2006.

Interestingly Tottenham have a Director of Football operations, Rebecca Caplehorn, a Chartered Accountant with a strong financial background. There is a non-executive director in Ron Robson MD of Tavistock and Deputy Chairman of Mitchell & Butlers, the large pub and restaurant owners.

Liverpool 

Owned by the Fenway Sports Group their board is dominated by the principals John Henry, Tom Werner and Mike Gordon. Now demonstrating success on the pitch, it is Liverpool perhaps who are now most successful in exploiting their brand, particularly internationally. A combination of this success and incredible press and media relations have allowed the club to build a very successful commercial operation. Completing the FSG representation is Michael Egan, a partner at FSG.

In addition to the FSG representation, Peter Moore, CEO sits on the board. He joined in 2017, and has a career of growing businesses in the technology and entertainment spaces. His CV includes senior positions at Sega, Microsoft and Entertainment Arts.  Andy Hughes has been finance director and Chief Operating Officer since 2013. Finally Kenny Dalglish, who needs no introduction, is a board member.

Finally there is a strong executive team comprising principally of Sporting Director, Michael Edwards and Commercial Director, Billy Hogan.

Conclusion

Are we starting to see better results, better outcomes? There’s evidence for optimism in terms of the playing side through the managerial appointments. But let’s be clear it is the strength of the individual appointments that provides the basis for optimism.

There’s optimism also over Bramley-Moore, although we still have hurdles to overcome .

However until Moshiri takes the decision to strengthen the board, especially the Chair, commercial and operational appointments, the fear is that other clubs will continue to make better decisions than us and take advantage of opportunities more readily. Failure to provide the best at board and executive level will hurt the efforts of Ancelotti and Brands.

It would also probably keep Moshiri’s trophy count at zero for longer than any of us wish for, or indeed his financial commitment deserves.



Categories: Everton, Opinion

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4 replies

  1. Hi Paul, for longer than I care to remember, I have expressed concern at the ‘make up’ of our senior executive team, not just the actual board members and their individual responsibilities, but the recruitment policy at the time, of seemingly always ‘promoting from within’.

    There is a wealth of talent out there, not just UK based, but globally and it disappoints me that Moshiri has not recognised the failure’s of those closest to him in the last four years and acted accordingly? Has he got a vulnerability in this sense and acts on trust rather than real empirical evidence.

    Given his background and exposure over many years, within many global organisations, this aspect of his tenure to date really surprises me.

    Your examples of other clubs and the key personnel in their board room/senior management team, sticks in the gut really, we could and should have mirrored this, especially with the opportunity and ‘new horizons’ that the introduction of Farhad and has injection of capital brought into the club.

    One point re Man United’s financial position, is not their existing level of debt carried within the club, and serviced I presume by their massive turnover, a ‘negative’ not a ‘positive’ and at what time does it get to a dangerous level?

    Cheers

    Steve Hogan

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