April 8 – American investors have bought another English club, but rather than expanding US ownership presence in the Premier League investment fund ORG has plumped for Ipswich Town who have not been in the Premier League since 2002. The deal is said to be worth about £40 million.
Ipswich are currently eight in League 1 and three points off the play-off positions.
Marcus Evans, who had owned the club for 13 years and is reckoned to have invested £100 million in the club, has been in negotiations to sell the club for some while having acquired the club on the brink of bankruptcy in 2007.
In a statement on the club’s website Evans outlined the new ownership structure. “A new company (Gamechanger 20 Ltd) has been formed specifically to purchase the Club… and in addition a payment for property and purchasing some of the debt previously owed to the ME Group including the debts acquired at a discount by the ME Group when buying the Club in 2007,” said Evans.
ORG’s manages funds on behalf of a large US pension fund and will own 90% of Gamechanger 20 Ltd. Evans is taking a 5% stake in the new company while three Americans – Brett Johnson, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer – who manage a US fund called the Three Lions will also take a 5% stake.
Evans said “a very fair price” had been agreed for all of his equity and that “a portion of historic debt has in effect been written off, leaving the Club with a much smaller debt burden and with nearly all Club debt owed to the new owners.”
The Three Lions holds an ownership position in US club Phoenix Rising who play in the second tier USL. Johnson, Bakay and Detmer, alongside new chairman, Mike O’Leary (formerly CEO at West Brom) will oversee and manage the business.
“We are humbled and excited to be investing in Ipswich Town, one of the finest clubs in the history of English football,” said Johnson.
“We are proud of our success on and off the pitch at Phoenix Rising and are committed to restoring ITFC to its former glory. To this end, the first priority is promotion to the Championship and the management team will be given additional funds to strengthen the playing squad.
“The Three Lions have considerable experience in commerce and marketing, and in the medium-term plan to increase revenue at the Club, but the short-term priority has to be the playing side, and we are committed to improving that, all the way from the Academy to the first-team.”
Ipswich Town have top tier pedigree having won the FA Cup in 1978 and the Uefa Cup three years later under legendary English manager Bobby Robson. After relegation from the Premier League in 2002, Ipswich spent 17 seasons in the Championship, before being relegated to League One.
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