Alisher Usmanov. Picture: REUTERS
Alisher Usmanov. Picture: REUTERS

London — Billionaire Alisher Usmanov has come up with a novel way of staying within Premier League investor rules to help longtime business partner Farhad Moshiri, the majority shareholder in Everton Football Club.

Usmanov’s holding company will become the Liverpool-based team’s first training ground partner and will gain certain marketing rights, Everton said in a statement, without revealing financial details. The facility has been renamed USM Finch Farm under the terms of the five-year contract.

The deal brings Usmanov and Moshiri back together in having ties to the same team. The two men previously had a joint share of a company that owns 30% of the Arsenal Football Club.

Premier League rules forbid investors from owning stock in multiple teams, forcing Moshiri to sell his portion to Usmanov in order to complete his acquisition of 49.9% of Everton in 2016.

Usmanov, Russia’s seventh richest man, introduced Moshiri to soccer investment, Moshiri told Everton shareholders at the club’s annual meeting two days ago. "We do most things together," Moshiri said.

Usmanov is an avid Arsenal fan whose efforts to have full control of the club have been frustrated. The club’s former shareholders preferred to sell their stock to American businessman Stan Kroenke in 2011.

Uzbekistan-born Usmanov has a fortune of $13.1bn, according to Bloomberg data. He is the biggest shareholder in USM Holdings, a group created in 2012 to consolidate the billionaire’s interests, which include miner Metalloinvest and Russian telecom operator MegaFon. Moshiri, a former accountant, also owns stock in USM.

Holding Company

It is unclear whether the Premier League will seek more information about the training-ground agreement, which comes after growing speculation that Usmanov planned to invest in Everton.

USM, which also has stakes in companies including Alibaba Group Holding, Spotify and Airbnb, is the first holding company to sponsor a Premier League team.

Moshiri became Everton’s biggest shareholder in February and cleared the club’s debts with an £80m interest-free loan.

He has promised to revitalise a team that has fallen behind the top performers on and off the field. Everton’s £121.5m of revenue for the year through May 2016 is more than four times less than Manchester United, the league’s richest team. It won its last trophy 21 years ago.

USM board member Ivan Streshinsky said the naming of Finch Farm and the package of marketing rights "provides USM and the businesses within our group with unique year-round global media exposure".

Should Everton qualify for European club competition, the deal is likely to face scrutiny from regional governing body Uefa. The Switzerland-based organisation will treat the deal as a so-called related-party transaction, and could possibly sanction the team if it determines USM has paid above fair market value.


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