US investment firm buys Belgian soccer club Standard Liege

[LONDON] US investment firm 777 Partners LLC acquired Belgian soccer club Standard Liège, deepening its bet on what it considers undervalued sports assets in Europe.

The Miami-based firm bought a controlling stake from Bruno Venanzi, co-founder of energy company Lampiris and club president for the past seven years, Standard said Friday in a statement on its website. Terms weren't disclosed.

"777 Partners is delighted to take up this new challenge to help the club continue its development and regain its former glory," said Standard, which won the last of its 10 Belgian league titles in 2009.

The transaction comes with soccer, where profitability is a rarity, at something of a crossroads. The sport's elites are pushing for ever greater returns after trying last year to put together a league of the richest clubs in a largely closed competition. Smaller clubs are getting squeezed and struggling to remain competitive on and off the field.

The deal is also set to pass under the radar of many in the industry, as potential buyers prepare multibillion-dollar bids for Chelsea FC, the current European champion that's been put up for sale after the U.K. government imposed sanctions on owner Roman Abramovich.

Josh Wander's 777, which owns Genoa in Italy's Serie A, a minority stake in Sevilla in Spain's La Liga and recently agreed to buy Vasco da Gama in Brazil, is gambling on the potential upside of second-tier teams that already have established brands and solid fan bases.

Genoa is the oldest team in Italy, Sevilla claims a similar moniker in Spain and Vasco da Gama is one of the best-supported clubs in Brazil.

Currently languishing in 13th position in Belgium's top division, Standard had pre-Covid revenues of between 45 million euros (S$67.5 million) to 50 million euros a year, according to a person familiar with the situation. BLOOMBERG

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