Everton Football Club have announced two further internal promotions to the main board of directors, with the appointment as directors of Sarvar Ismailov and Grant Ingles.
This brings the board up to six, all of whom continue to have executive roles at the club. Whilst it has been very necessary for some time to increase the number of board members, these two appointments do not present a change of direction in the manner in which the club is run. Indeed one could argue that it further confirms business a usual in respect of the board and the major shareholder, Farhad Moshiri.
To be fair, bringing Grant Ingles on to the board as finance director is a necessary move given the current finances of the club and the further strain on the balance sheet resulting from the enormous capital project in building Bramley-Moore stadium. Ingles’ inbox will be full including addressing the stadium funding, Everton’s current losses, cashflow and future debt providers. In addition to Grant Ingles expertise being present at board level, it should free up time and responsibilities for Sasha Ryazantsev to be involved in more productive and income generative opportunities arising from the stadium itself and our future commercial growth programme.
From a governance perspective, adding two existing executives to the board adds nothing in terms of oversight and accountability of the executive. The addition of independent non-executive directors to the board would benefit the company (and the major shareholder) greatly in my opinion. Unfortunately Moshiri seems to think otherwise.
The fundamental issues regarding leadership, strategy, communications and commercial growth are not altered by these appointments. Again Moshiri, as I have so often documented on this website, must look at the leadership of the board and bring changes which improve the prospects of Everton being better run and more challenging vis-à-vis our competitors and peers. The board remains very light relative to that of the six largest clubs and other Premier League members.
Much will be made of Sarvar Ismailov’s family connections. I will stress again my view that this does not make Usmanov’s involvement any greater. It does however, shift the balance of the board further in favour of Moshiri (not that there has been much evidence of independent thinking by the board since Moshiri acquired his initial stake in February 2016). It is interesting to note that the club’s communications refer to both Ismailov and Ryazantsev as representatives of the major shareholder.
Equally interesting is the acknowledgement that the board required an injection of “youth and exuberance” in the appointment of Ismailov. In terms of his qualifications and past experiences, Ismailov is a law graduate from City, University of London. His previous roles include Associate Lawyer at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP and Investment Analyst at My.com.
Grant Ingles is a Qualified Chartered Accountant – (FCA), Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and completed his training at top four Accountancy firm Deloitte LLP between September 1998 and July 2001. He has a degree in Law and Business Studies from the University of Warwick.
In conclusion, the strengthening of the board was necessary in terms of personnel and specifically in terms of having a finance director with sole responsibility for this area. It does not address the governance issue in terms of independent non-executive directors, nor does it address the leadership issues mentioned so many times here and elsewhere.
I hope this is just the start of a significant change process at Everton, a change process desperately needed if we are to compete successfully in the future. Moshiri has to bring in external expertise and leadership for that success to be achieved.