Farhad Moshiri will become the majority shareholder at Everton, with his purchase of a 49.9% stake in the Premier League club only the start of his takeover.
Bill Kenwright’s decade-long search for investment ended on Saturday when it was announced Moshiri, a British-Iranian businessman who is valued at £1.3bn (€1.65bn) by Forbes, the American business magazine, had agreed a deal to become Everton’s major shareholder. The 60-year-old sold his stake in Arsenal to his business partner, Alisher Usmanov, on Friday before paying about £87.5m (€111m)for the Everton shares. The deal values the Goodison Park club at £175m (€222m).
Subject to Premier League approval, which is expected to be a formality following his investment at Arsenal, Moshiri will acquire Robert Earl's 23% stake in Everton, plus shares from Kenwright and the director Jon Woods, both of whom are to dilute their respective shareholdings of 26% and 19%. There is an agreement in place, however, for the Monaco-based businessman to increase his stake over time and become the majority owner.
Everton’s new investor will work alongside Kenwright, who is to remain as the club chairman, for an interim period. In a statement confirming the agreement, Kenwright said Moshiri “brings the promise of new investment” and it is expected the summer transfer budget for the manager, Roberto Martínez, will rise as a result.
Everton hope the extra funds will encourage players such as Romelu Lukaku, John Stones and Ross Barkley to resist any overtures at the end of the season. Martínez has stated Everton plan to offer new contracts to Barkley and Stones this summer.
Also high on Moshiri’s agenda is a resolution to Everton’s stadium saga. The club have failed with two stadium projects during Kenwright’s tenure – to King’s Dock in 2003 and out of the city to Kirkby in 2009 – and are seeking support from the cash-strapped Liverpool city council for plans to relocate to nearby Walton Hall Park.
Those proposals sparked a public row in November when Everton's chief executive, Robert Elstone, blamed the council for the lack of progress only for the city's mayor, Joe Anderson, to reveal Everton had not submitted any detailed plans for a stadium. Anderson met Kenwright, who has been suffering from ill health for the past year, in London last week.
“It’s great news for Evertonians and good news for the city,” said the mayor. “It was good to see Bill looking so well when we met. He updated me on what was going on and that a deal was close. Let’s really hope that the club can achieve big things now.”
Kenwright has held talks with several potential investors over the years, including the American businessmen John Jay Moores and Charles Noell. The pair remained in dialogue with the Everton board following the end of a six-week due diligence period in January but it is understood Kenwright favoured a single investor rather than a consortium.
Moshiri’s parents fled Iran just before the 1979 revolution. A chartered certified accountant, he was educated at University College London and holds UK citizenship but is based in Monaco with his wife and two children. He met the Arsenal shareholder Usmanov in the early 1990s and the pair have worked on several projects in the UK and Russia.
Everton’s impending major shareholder said: “I am delighted to take this opportunity to become a shareholder in Everton, with its rich heritage as one of Europe’s leading football clubs.
"There has never been a more level playing field in the Premier League than now. Bill Kenwright has taught me what it means to be an Evertonian and I look forward with excitement to working with him to help deliver success for Everton in the future."
Kenwright added: “After an exhaustive search I believe we have found the perfect partner to take the club forward. I have got to know Farhad well over the last 18 months and his football knowledge, financial wherewithal and true-blue spirit have convinced me that he is the right man to support Everton.”