Farhad Moshiri – the solution or part of the problem?

Moshiriweb2

The words of Farhad Moshiri, in the programme notes of 12 March 2016, just two weeks after his £87.5 million share purchase giving him a 49.9% shareholding and effective control of the club.

What a start, (what a manager!) 2-0 to Everton v Chelsea in a FA Cup Quarter Final with Lukaku scoring one of the most memorable goals seen at the Street End in many a fine year

What am I to say?” Moshiri said. “I bought into a great club. I felt it today. It is a great club.” He added “I think you can never take over a club, you can be part of a club, and I think that’s what I’m hoping; to become part of a club…I bought into a family, a new family. I think that’s what’s special for me. And I give them whatever I have

Two months later, on 12 May, Martinez having won only one of nine games subsequent to the quarter final, was fired with the club in 11th position, having lost our second semi-final of the season, the FA Cup semi final versus Manchester United with huge divisions apparent within the squad and indeed the fan base.

Although there was some sadness for Martinez, the decision was received with great enthusiasm by the fans. At last we had a decisive owner, willing to make tough decisions, even cancelling the in-house awards evening at St George’s Hall due later that evening.

With Moshiri promising lots of money for purchases, a striker who scored 25 goals in a season (the first in a royal blue shirt since Gary Lineker, 30 years previously) and the prospects of a “hollywood” manager Evertonians entered the 2016 summer in high spirits. We had an ambitious owner, sufficiently wealthy to attract a high profile manager, invest in the squad, build a stadium and surely bring the changes at boardroom level necessary to deliver and maintain the above.

The reality has been somewhat different. I have broken down the key elements of his time as shareholder.

Recruitment on and off the field has been a major issue for the club in the last 4 years. As anyone familiar with the club will know, managerial appointments have been haphazard with seemingly no strategy behind them. There was a plan when Koeman arrived but despite a promising first season and European qualification, recruitment was appalling and the manager totally detached from the club, players (seemingly) and particularly the fans. Koeman was a hard character to manage, no doubt, but the absence of direction and leadership from the major shareholder, Chairman and directors made a difficult situation much worse. The financial impact of Koeman and Walsh’s time, fueled by a generous owner, but with no checks and balances, still impacts the club 3 years later.

Manager appointments under Moshiri:

Managers Appointed Dismissed
Martinez 12-May-16
Koeman 14-Jun-16 30-Nov-17
Unsworth* 24-Oct-17 30-Nov-17
Allardyce 30-Nov-17 16-May-18
Silva 31-May-18 05-Dec-19
Ferguson* 05-Dec-19 21-Dec-19
Ancelotti 21-Dec-19

Director of Football appointments under Moshiri:

The decision to appoint a director of football was, in my opinion, correct. The initial appointment, how it came about and the strategic thinking and direction were far different though. In the early summer of 2016 the club chased every top candidate across Europe – for whatever we lacked in strategy, ambition was high. However leading candidates like Monchi failed to be convinced  (Brands was also approached but for him the timing was wrong) and by mid July we settled on Steve Walsh, a scout with a great reputation for unearthing talent and a fundamental part of Leicester City’s stunning Premier League title win. However, cast into a poorly defined role at Everton and with three others (Moshiri, Kenwright and Koeman) directing their own transfer strategies, with hindsight it is not surprising that the results of spending huge sums, paying inflated salaries and disposing of Everton’s established star assets created a less effective and unbalanced playing squad.

The subsequent appointment of Brands, an experienced director of football with proven abilities and enviable success on and off the pitch has, to date, not yielded immediate dividends. However, his to do list is significant. Re-structuring the academy, integrating the U-23 side as a feeder for the first team, re-balancing a very poor and expensive squad takes time. The difficult market conditions in the Covid-19 era and Everton’s stretched finances further complicate matters, but working alongside Ancelotti in a disciplined manner, reducing the influence of the board and Moshiri in transfer decisions remains the only solution to Everton’s appalling recruitment policies in the last 4 years.

Director of Football Appointed Dismissed
Walsh 21-Jul-16 16-May-18
Brands 16-May-18

Transfer Activity under Moshiri

Much has been written about Everton’s transfer business since 2016, and I don’t propose to add much other than to list the major transfers and make the following point:

We have spent £458 million, recouped £266.7million and we have seen our wage bill increase from £84 million to £160 million (end June 2019) in 4 years. Yet, in its entirety, we have an extremely weak squad with many underperforming and unsuitable players. The true legacy of serious mismanagement.

Purchases Price Sales Price
Summer 2016
Bolasie 26.0 Stones 50.4
Williams 12.6 Pienaar 0.0
Gueye 7.6 Howard 0.0
Calvert-Lewin 1.5
Winter 16/17
Schneiderlin 20.7 Gibson 2.2
Lookman 7.9 Oviedo 1.8
Summer 2017
Sigurdsson 44.6 Lukaku 76.2
Keane 25.6 Deulofeu 10.8
Pickford 25.6 Cleverly 8.4
Klaassen 24.3 Barry 1.0
Vlasic 9.7 McGeady 0.8
Onyekuru 7.2 McAleny 0.0
Ramirez 5.4 Rodriguez 0.0
Martina 0.0 Kone 0.0
Rooney 0.0
Winter 17/18
Walcott 20.3 Barkley 15.0
Tosun 20.3 Lennon 1.5
Summer 2018
Richarlison 35.0 Klaassen 12.2
Mina 27.0 Funes Mori 8.1
Digne 18.0
Winter 18/19
Browning 4.1
Summer 2019
Iwobi 27.4 Gueye 27.0
Kean 24.7 Lookman 16.0
Gbamin 22.5 Vlasic 14.0
Gomes 22.5 Onyekuru 12.0
Delph 8.6 McCarthy 3.0
Winter 19/20
Summer 2020
Nkounkou 0.3 Schneiderlin 2.0

Board changes under Moshiri

One of the most confusing aspects of Moshiri’s time with the club is his failure to really address the board composition. There have been changes naturally, Earl left with his shareholding having been sold, Ryazantsev appointed principally as the finance man but with an extended portfolio now including commerce. Keith Harris came and went. Given his experience with the Wembley stadium construction he was thought the ideal candidate to lead the search for funding of the new stadium. Unsurprisingly, he failed to deliver on this and left the club.  Robert Elstone left for new pastures and his true love, Rugby League.

The unanswered questions relate to the retention of Bill Kenwright as Chairman, the appointment of Barrett-Baxendale and why there are no external members (non-executive directors) to bring outside expertise and critically, executive accountability. From a governance point of view it is highly unsatisfactory. Perhaps more importantly, we have a board weak on experience and not sufficiently skilled to meet the demands of a Premier League club faced with multiple problems in the most challenging of market conditions.

In my opinion, Moshiri’s failure to address the strengthening and broadening of the board (and the executive team under it) is the single greatest reason for the strategic errors we have made and our failure to advance on and off the pitch.  I hope prospective stadium lenders force him to address this issue urgently. The stadium I will address separately.

Changes in Directors
Appointment Date Termination Date
Robert Earl 17-Mar-16
Sasha Ryazantsev 17-Mar-16
Robert Elstone 17-Mar-16
Denise Barrett-Baxendale 13-Jul-16
Keith Harris 14-Oct-16
Robert Elstone 01-Jun-18
Marcel Brands 10-Jan-19
Jon Woods 26-Jul-19
Keith Harris 26-Jul-19

The stadium

It was clear from day one that one of Moshiri’s primary objectives was to find a new home for Everton. Indeed part of his due diligence in the summer of 2015 was to analyse probable sites and designs.

It’s worth saying immediately that Moshiri brought credibility and financial clout to an issue which the previous shareholders and board, particularly Bill Kenwright, had failed to successfully address for over two decades.

That’s not to say that the proposed move to Bramley-Moore has been totally smooth to date. Whilst some may disagree with this comment, the stadium has taken longer to reach this stage of its development than was originally thought. For example, Joe Anderson quoted 2021 at Moshiri’s first AGM in 2017.  The project has had various iterations, including a potentially compromising Commonwealth games version, a stunning 60,000 seat version and now, whilst visually impressive, a considerably scaled back 52,000 seat version sitting in the planning department of Liverpool City Council. To be fair, the consultation processes leading up to the planning application received universal acclaim and in my opinion, are the finest piece of work the football club has done for many a year.

Financing of the stadium is yet to be finalised. Moshiri has said on several occasions he will underwrite the difference between the final cost and the amount the club will be permitted to borrow. The massively changed economic circumstances now facing us and the considerable cash demands of the business over the last 4 years will push his commitment beyond where he most likely planned in 2016.

Finances

It is not unusual in the development phase of a project to spend more than you earn, particularly when the income streams are largely fixed. However, mainly driven by the wasteful player acquisitions (as well as significant increases in operating expenses) the club’s P&L account under Moshiri has taken a battering.

Cumulative losses for the 3 years to June 2019 amount to £101 million. I project further losses of £60 million for this year even after the £30 million naming rights contribution from USM. These losses would be even greater if it was not for the significant contribution from player trading. In the three years to June 2019 player trading contributed £152.7 million. This financial year I forecast £58 million in player trading profits bringing an aggregate total of £211 million.

Moshiri’s capital injections have been significant. No one, not even his harshest critic can doubt the financial commitment of the man. To June 2019 he has provided £350 million in equity funding and although not yet confirmed in the accounts to be published later this year, I estimate he has provided another £50 million in working capital.

The commercial performance of the club continues to drag. I accept the failures on the field have reduced our ability to expand our commercial footprint, but I am duty bound to say we need investment in experienced professionals who know how to generate commercial income globally. It is another puzzling aspect of Moshiri’s tenure.

Income growth has almost exclusively arisen from the relationship with USM. Their partnership and commitment to the club is worthy of note. The naming rights deal regarding Finch Farm and associated sponsorship around Goodison and our training kits have generated £12 million a year to date (£6 million first year) and of course, the wonderfully creative naming rights option for Bramley-Moore amounting to £30 million.

The banking relationship with ICBC was hailed as a resounding success. Not only providing a much needed £60 million credit facility but an association with China’s largest bank had much merit. Their (ICBC) withdrawal from corporate lending in the UK was regrettable. The fact that we had to resort to Rights and Media Funding as a credit supplier is perhaps a reflection of the deterioration of our credit rating.

Communications

Not every business owner is a natural communicator, nor do they have to have a great desire to stand in front of a microphone. Moshiri’s irregular media appearances, his preferred channels of communication and indeed, some of his comments at shareholder  general meetings have not put him in a great light.

He has come across as a maverick owner in my opinion. His comments appear unscripted and not particularly corporate or strategic. His use of Jim White as a preferred channel of communication is bizarre to say the least. The comments about Lukaku, the family references re McCarthy do not sit in the goldfish bowl that is Premier League football.

When being strangely indecisive over the firing of Silva, he spoke to the players and was reported as saying  “I think of all of you as my sons.” Some may see that as a positive but again it adds to the theory of unusual management practices at least.

Is this important? Actually, it is. We seek a significant increase in commercial income and partnerships. That requires, in part, someone who speaks coherently and on message from a corporate perspective. If Moshiri is not a natural orator or well versed in public communication skills, the club ought provide the training, discipline and guidance required.

An example of Moshiri’s communication style:

Conclusion:

More than 4 years on and in a world now struggling to come to terms with a pandemic, barely contained in the UK but still developing in the Americas and much of the southern hemisphere, I think it’s a valid question to ask is Moshiri really the solution provider or is he presiding over a club with perhaps even greater problems than those he inherited in February 2016?

The appointments of Brands and particularly Ancelotti point to better times. They point to a man who has not only used his wealth but his no doubt, considerable charms to attract these men to our club. That is huge progress.

However, in isolation, it is not enough. If the board and management structure is not competitive vis-a-vis our peers and in the light of our numerous challenges before us compounded by inconsistent behaviour, decisions and communications from the major shareholder then we will struggle to make headway.

Seven years ago we were firmly “the best of the rest” despite the minimal resources available to the club. Four years ago we were probably still the best of the rest (albeit the elite group had grown from four to six). Today, we cannot say with any certainty that that holds true. There are compelling cases for Leicester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers to be ahead of us. There’s even a case for bringing Southampton into this discussion.

That is not progress. It is regression. We have to perform better across the business, every aspect of what the club does has to improve enormously. To dispute that is a form of great denial. Yet this is happening on Moshiri’s watch.

The time is for him to prove he is the solution provider, but his approach has to change to do so. Throwing money at us and expecting us to perform better is not enough. It requires leadership, clarity of thought and strategic planning. If Moshiri can’t provide that or provide the people who can deliver it, then regrettably, despite his financial commitment, he is part of the problem.

Respectfully, being part of “the club…buying into a new family” alone is insufficient in my opinion.



Categories: Everton, Everton finances

Tags: , , , ,

8 replies

  1. Your forensic financial analysis is second to none paul. But getting upset because our billionaire owner is not corporate enough with his oratory at the AGMs is ridiculous. As long as he keeps pumping millions into the club I think he has the right to say what the hell he likes. In fact he should have had a hell of a lot more to say in probably a more industrial manner. The recruitment has been his only downfall as this is the hardest thing to get right in football, I have every sympathy with him. Thank god he had the fiscal clout to get the mistakes out the door in time and the balls to keep trying. In my opinion we couldn’t have a much better owner. I shudder to think what would have happened if we didn’t have the fiscal means to sack Martinez when we did. The player recruited by subsequent managers and DOFs have been their And the club’s undoing.

    • Thanks for your reply Barry and I appreciate you have a different view. I stand by my concluding comments that there are many things to be done at the club and those things can only be driven by Moshiri. Just pumping in the money is not enough

      • Do you think there should be more board members. Does bringing on board Mr Usmanov if he is willing to help. Would his envolement alter FFP

      • We need replacements in the board room as much as we do on the pitch. Chair, CEO and 2 non executives IMO. Usmanov doesn’t sit on boards of the companies he invests in and he’s not an investor in Everton. His involvement would not alter any FFP or Profit & Sustainability issues. Income is the solution to that problem

  2. Good stuff, as always!

    I know you’ve tried to have a dig into his background (as have I and many other Evertonian’s interested in the welfare of our club) – There’s not much to pick over though & what little is out there seems to have been carefully curated by some ‘Finsbury type’ PR firm. Mr Moshiri is an difficult one to work out, in every way.

    His investment couldn’t be more welcome and his obvious enthusiasm is endearing, however his leadership, communication and performance just don’t seem to marry up.

    In my career to date, I’ve worked with a number of HNI’s and even a ‘self made’ billionaire and although they have differed in approach depending on professional backgrounds, industries and circumstance, there’s a common thread that runs deep – clarity, drive and a ruthlessness to make (and not lose) money!

    Farhad Moshiri strikes me as someone who is very relaxed and almost (dare I say it) fanciful in his dealings with Everton!
    My god, I envy his position – being a chilled out Billionaire! 🙂 However, it does make me wonder;
    -How long is he in this for?
    -Where does Everton sit in his list of commitments and priorities – could things change quickly?
    -His own source of continued funding?
    -Is there a point where he may get bored with the stagnation and consistent loss making & scrutiny?

    Like everyone else, I’ve considered his relationship with Usmanov as we know that their partnership has been the source of Farhad’s good fortune/wealth. It’s also great news that Usmanov is currently in the good graces of Mr Putin as one of the favoured oligarchs from the region, encouraged to continue to build his empire and influence across the world. (Although that situation can be precarious in the west at the moment – The new cold war of sorts – Magninsky act / Mr Abramovich /CCP billionaires facing sanctons etc).

    I’m cautious to pose too many questions because a man of Mr Moshiri’s means, obvious enthusiasm and ambition should be welcome with open arms (and he is!) However, as your analysis shows, there are also so many questions to be asked about the performance and direction of the club.

    I remain optimistic and positive (like a chilled out billionaire 🙂 but with an air of caution.

  3. Excellent article really gets to the heart of the problem

  4. Hi Barry (comment 1) Your defence of Moshiri has some merit, but on a wider scale, not only has his recruitment of (as it turned out) of poorly performing managers been a consistent theme during his brief tenure, his sanctioning of some very questionable internal appointments must be highlited as well.

    Why on earth would you appoint a CEO of a company whose turnover is approaching £200m from a solely charity/education background? I would argue in fact that the appointment was undoubtedly recommended by Kenwright who felt comfortable with this aspect of keeping it ‘local’. Moshiri must have agreed to this in principle, instead of demanding a candidate with a suitably global commercial background.

    It does beg the question ‘who is actually driving the ship’ still, Bill or Farhad. This key appointment was even more crucial given the very area the club needs to improve in, it’s external commercial performance.

    Without Moshiri’s injection of capital four years ago, the reality is the club would have possibly suffered relegation, this coupled with a decrepit home ground, the future was very bleak, but the club has let itself become ‘charity centered’ by the personal agenda of it’s CEO, and a seemingly weak owner.

  5. Really good piece. A look back at our transfer business sends a massive shiver and is the only answer needed to those who say the important thing is that he keeps on spending.

    You can clearly see we’ve regressed in the last few years, and we’ve never ever spent this much. A bit similar to Utd post-Ferguson who threw money around but went from coach to coach and had no direction or strategy.

    I accept this isn’t necessarily Moshiri’s job, and is more aimed at Brands. Time will tell if he and Ancelotti are the answer, though we haven’t exactly pulled up any trees and there’s an argument his best days were over ten years ago.

    But there are lessons to be had. Sadly, some from across the park. But if you get the right people in at the top with the right strategy and the right way to achieve it then you can get success. That’s the important thing nowadays. Money is important in making the breakthrough signings but there are still gems, but you have to know what you’re looking for. Iwobi may be a good player, he certainly cost a lot of money. But if you get him and then have zero clue what to do with him, then it’s not really his fault he does next to nothing. That culture has to stop otherwise teams like Southampton and Wolves who are following a more coherent strategy will leave us in the dust.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: