A group of American investors have today (Wednesday, April 7) purchased Ipswich Town Football Club in a deal understood to be worth £40m with former owner Marcus Evans branding it as “a marriage made in heaven.”
Mr Evans is reported to have sold the club to Gamechanger 20 Ltd following a long negotiating period of time and he will retain a 5% investment with the company.
Gamechanger 20 Ltd is a group made up of investors from the United States including Brett Johnson, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer, who co-own USL club Phoenix Rising.
Mike O’Leary, a former board member of both West Brom and Oxford United, is also part of the group and is understood to have been driving the deal. He is the new chairman of Ipswich Town Football Club.
There is a promise from the company to invest in the club and it’s understood club staff, including manager Paul Cook, were informed of the deal this morning, with Evans insisting one of the conditions of the deal was the need to stick with and support the incumbent manager.
A statement from Mr Evans issued on the club’s website said: “I have always said that, whilst not actively looking to sell, I would seriously consider an offer made to me by a credible party if it would invest in Ipswich Town in a way that provides secure long-term funding to help take our club forwards.
For an offer to succeed the following boxes had to be ticked:-
1) An irrevocable commitment to fund not just the purchase of the football club, but also to support a long-term business plan to invest in the team, infrastructure, our fans’ experience, the Academy and the club’s role in the wider community;
2) Security for the club’s employees, including a commitment to support the new manager;
3) A fair treatment of the shareholders of ITFC PLC and ensuring that they are not left behind in any offer.
“Following several months of detailed due diligence by both parties, to ensure this will be a ‘marriage made in heaven’, an agreement approved by the EFL was signed today and I am satisfied that the above conditions have been met.
“A new company (Gamechanger 20 Ltd) has been formed specifically to purchase the club for which a very fair price has been agreed for all of my equity, 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.
“As part of the transaction, a portion of that 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.
“I plan to divorce myself from any day-to-day responsibilities and get back to following the Town as a highly interested, passionate and vested fan.
“I had always wanted to take the club myself to the Premier League and sadly, for too short a window, at one time this had seemed possible.
“However, as important to me as my ambition for the club was, if it didn’t work out I wanted to leave the club in not only a more secure financial position than the perilous state in which I found it, but with ownership that provides triple A financial backing alongside a community ethos.
“I believe I have found this and I look forward to cheering the team on every week as we work our way back to where we all want to be.”
The new chairman of ITFC Mike O’Leary, said: “We want our first remarks on completion of this takeover to be words of thanks to Marcus Evans. We have been discussing this sale with him for more than a year, and throughout the negotiations his love for the club has shone through.
“He is a true supporter and all of us at Gamechanger 20 are extremely grateful that he has chosen to put his trust in us.
“Marcus has invested considerable money, time and energy in Ipswich Town. His decision to waive much of the club’s outstanding debt is one that deserves the gratitude of every single Ipswich Town fan.”