Gerry Cardinale, the founder and managing partner of RedBird Capital, had considered purchasing Liverpool in 2009
The founder and managing partner of one of Fenway Sports Group’s largest shareholders has revealed how he was turned down for a takeover bid by Liverpool in 2009.
RedBird Capital Partners, a New York-based investment firm, joined Liverpool owners FSG in March 2021, acquiring an 11% stake in FSG and its entire portfolio for a fee of around $750 million, with the capital raised through the deal assisting FSG with cashflow across their assets during the pandemic and assisting them with the November 2021 purchase of the Pittsburgh Penguins NHL team.
RedBird, which has a diverse investment portfolio that includes sports, technology, media, finance, and energy, has been a major player in the sports investment market over the last two and a half years, purchasing a controlling interest in French side Toulouse in the summer of 2020, taking a stake in FSG, and completing a $1.2 billion deal to acquire Italian giants AC Milan in September. RedBird has also partnered with Hollywood actor Dwayne Johnson to resurrect the XFL in the United States.
Gerry Cardinale is the founder and managing partner of RedBird. Prior to launching RedBird in 2014, he worked for Goldman Sachs for several years. He got his first experience of sports investing at Goldman Sachs, where he was instrumental in the development of multibillion-dollar enterprises including the New York Yankees’ Yankees Entertainment & Sports (YES Network) and Legends Hospitality.
Three years before leaving Goldman, Cardinale pleaded with the bank to take advantage of the opportunity to buy a controlling stake in Liverpool, which was then owned by the deeply unpopular George Gillett and Tom Hicks, with a valuation of around $450 million (£300 million) at the time, which FSG eventually paid in October 2010. For FSG, it has been a deal that has seen their investment grow to around $4 billion (£3.3 billion) at the moment, though it will likely take a sum significantly greater than that for FSG to abandon their plan to source outside investment into the club at a time when they have opened themselves up to offers for their entire shareholding.
“We were ahead of our time in going for Liverpool, but in retrospect, I understand the move,” Cardinale said in an exclusive interview with Business Insider. “I always tell my Goldman colleagues, ‘You people cost us a lot of money.'”
After Cardinale had managed to change the initial judgment of the Goldman investment committee by bringing on board both the Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys ownership organizations as co-investors, it was former Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein who ended up canceling the transaction. According to Business Insider, Blankfein’s anxiety that the bank would expose itself to unfavorable headlines by owning a team with such a massive, passionate, and die-hard fan following ended up being the deal’s demise.
Twelve years later, Cardinale owns 11% of FSG’s overall empire, and RedBird has expanded its reach into European football with AC Milan, where the top priority is to build a new stadium to replace the famous but aging San Siro, as well as to ensure the 201/22 Serie A champions remain a competitive force at home and abroad.
Growing businesses has always been in RedBird’s wheelhouse, and following the acquisition of Milan, a deal was swiftly struck with the New York Yankees, with the YES Network airing AC Milan programming as part of its schedule. Yankee Global Enterprises acquired a tiny ownership in Milan after RedBird completed the sale in September, with the collaboration also resulting in Milan clothing being sold at Yankee Stadium and Yankees products being sold at the Rossoneri’s team stores in Milan.
In an interview with Business Insider, Liverpool chairman Tom Werner stated that RedBird and Cardinale will strive to repeat FSG’s success with the Reds in terms of developing the business and delivering trophies.
“I think Gerry recognized the value we created in Liverpool, and I think he expects to emulate Liverpool’s success in the Premier League with AC Milan,” Werner added.
Because of their ownership of AC Milan and the obvious conflict of interest that would result, RedBird will not be making a move for Liverpool, though they are known to wish to play a long-term role inside FSG as it expands its empire.
While the Liverpool owners are open to offers at the right price, sources have told the ECHO that little has changed since the revelations first surfaced in early November and that a partial sale to a “strategic partner” would be the preferred outcome, with FSG principal John W. Henry not overly keen for his organization to rid itself of their most valuable asset, one that would almost certainly see them leave money on the table with a sale now due to val