That was the stunningly simple assessment from one of the world’s greatest investors, Warren Buffett, when asked to define risk.
One of the world’s greatest investors, Warren Buffett, was once asked to define risk. There are a multitude of definitions, strategies and papers written on the subject, every Business School in the world including Harvard, devotes huge amounts of time and intellectual capital into defining, identifying and more often than not, negating risk. Buffett’s answer though was stunningly simple:
“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”
In the latest edition of EvertonBusinessMatters podcast we talked for an hour on the risks facing Everton Football Club now and in the future. However, I first want to take a step back to look at how we got to where we are now.
I’d argue that the decline in our competitive position, financially and on the pitch (in terms of being genuine contenders for silverware) since the beginnings of the Premier League is because the people charged with running the club (the directors) have never known what they are doing. We have been exposed to Buffett’s definition of risk and all suffered as a result of that.
If that sounds harsh, then I suppose I should explain what I mean by “have never known what they are doing”. I mean that the people running the club have got almost every single strategic decision wrong for over 25 years.
They failed to anticipate and recognise the boom years that lay ahead for successful Premier League clubs, opting for a safety-first approach which secured Premier League participation but nothing else of significance, certainly not competing for silverware, or even participation in the money pot of the Champions League. There was no growth strategy other than reliance upon periodic increases in broadcasting income, negotiated and awarded by the Premier League.
This approach was not exclusive to our footballing ambitions, but was clear in every commercial decision (perhaps more accurately, non-decision) the club has made. As a result, we tied ourselves to long term arrangements, be it sponsorship or our outsourcing models that were non-competitive relative to our peers and in a booming market got increasingly less competitive year after year.
As is universally known, we failed on several stadia moves, condemning us to the continued occupation of the much loved, yet financially restrictive and wholly inadequate, Goodison Park. We failed principally because we did not have the capital required, nor sought that capital, to move at any time.
Ultimately, that on reflection, is our greatest failure and the greatest risk the club was exposed to. It was often said that the owners, principally Kenwright, Woods and Robert Earl would not allow anyone access to “their trainset”. The three of them believed that their best interests were served by retaining their control and ownership of the club even in the full knowledge that Everton was massively under-capitalised and slipping behind our competitors year by year at an increasing rate. Mistakenly, oh how mistakenly, they would not countenance giving up a part of their equity in return for external capital. That capital would have developed the club on many occasions (exhibit (A) Kings Dock, for example with many others).
It would have allowed their reduced ownership to become significantly more valuable in the longer term. It was the very definition of “not knowing what they were doing”
The impact of not knowing what they were doing
When eventually the call for external investors and fresh investment became so loud that even they recognised it, the cost of their poor decisions over many years was reflected in the value put on the club. Let’s not forget Moshiri bought half the club at a very generous valuation (to the selling shareholders), valuing the whole club at £175 million. Based on fundamentals, the business was worth far less than that, perhaps no more than £80 million. Compare that to our once peers back at the formation of the Premier League, each of them who were valued at between £1bn and perhaps £2.5bn (in the case of Manchester United) at the time of Moshiri’s purchase.
The risk that the then owners exposed themselves and the club too, i.e. they didn’t know what they were doing, is there for all to see with significant consequences for them and the club. What should have been equity stakes worth hundreds of millions in a properly run club based on the correct strategic decisions, turns out only to be tens of millions because of the decisions they made over many years.
Enough of the history lesson.
Fast forward to now and there’s a huge number of strategic and commercial decisions to be made.
The stadium. The stadium will define the club for generations. Like nothing else the club has done for decades, it will define the scale of our ambitions, the true abilities of the board, the willingness of Moshiri to invest in the club, and our attractiveness to lenders.
Will we opt for a full-blown version of a new stadium with the maximum capacity the site can house, or will we take what some might mistakenly consider a lower risk strategy of “Bramley-Moore Lite”? As is described in the podcast anything other than the full blown version is considerably higher risk in my opinion, offering smaller marginal gains and negative associations in terms of the ambition of the club for marginal savings on expenditure.
We have funding decisions to make. Will it be with the Council plus additional lenders or Moshiri underwriting the remaining capital required, or will it be a more traditional financing structure including equity and bank debt?
We have commercial decisions to make, our kit supplier and distribution deals with Umbro and Fanatics respectively conclude in May of 2019. We are only a few months away from announcing our next commercial partners.
We have a global growth strategy to consider (or not). Are we going to exploit the undoubted goodwill and name-awareness of Everton across the globe to our financial benefit?
The question is this: is this board any more qualified to make the right decisions than the previous? Do we have enough people with enough commercial experience and business acumen to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not replicated?
Is the addition of Sasha Ryazantsev and Keith Harris with their newly defined responsibilities sufficient to change decades of poor strategy and decision making?
Compared to other boards of the “big 6” it would seem that even if Ryazantsev and Harris excel in their positions we are short of experience, talent and decision-making capacity.
If we are to “de-risk” the future of the club, using Warren Buffett’s explanation of the source of risk, it is clear we must minimise the chance of “not knowing what you are doing”. That can only be achieved by bringing fresh talent into the board room.
Just as on the pitch the squad has clear deficiencies in key areas the same can be said of the board. Whilst our director of football looks for new LB, CB, CM and an attacker, Farhad Moshiri must look for a new Executive Chairman, additionally someone with great global commercial experience and perhaps above all else, a strategist that can determine the moves we must make to become competitive once more.
By ensuring we know what we are doing, we reduce risk, thereby increasing the likelihood of a successful outcome. That can only be done with additions to the Board
Over to you Mr Moshiri…..
Reader Comments (38)
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1 Posted 01/07/2018 at 22:33:24
In our case "not knowing what they were doing" equates to being adverse to higher risk and always opting for the conservative lower risk 'safe' option.
Of course, people will point to the plight of Leeds Utd. as a justification for this strategy or, really, lack of strategy but there's a huge difference between recklessness and a well thought out, long term strategy.
I fear "not knowing what they're doing" still has a strong voice in our boardroom and maybe the public face of this conservatism is evident in Dan Meis talking down the call for a larger capacity Bramley-Moore Dock stadium.
I would hope Moshiri has a medium to long-term strategy of where he wants this club to be in 5-10 years time and puts a team in place capable of achieving that goal.
Anything less would be disastrous for him, for the club and for us long suffering fans.
2 Posted 01/07/2018 at 22:45:48
3 Posted 01/07/2018 at 22:51:33
Even the welcome investment of Farhad Moshiri, has exposed his naivety in Football Related Business. The appointment of Ronald Koeman has arguably set the Club back, a lot more than we may realise.
The amount of times we have been envious of the Cash-rich Clubs being able to attract some of the World's best players, while we have shopped at the equivalent of Car-boot sales.
Then when we eventuaĺly find ourselves actually having the means to shop at Harrods, the money, or the best part of it, is frittered away on a mixture of players we didn't actually need, and others who were overpriced flops.
That may sound a bit harsh, but nevertheless apart from Pickford and Lookman, and Gylfi Siggurdsson, the others have added nothing but an embarrassment of numbers, and a drain on the wage-bill.
It's early days yet, under the new regime, of Marco Silva and Marcel Brands, but I do hope the painful lessons of their predecessors, have been well and truly heeded, and will be acted upon accordingly.
4 Posted 01/07/2018 at 23:02:13
5 Posted 01/07/2018 at 23:52:21
I have argued that we will never fill a large capacity stadium ; we will. I have always feared that the premier league bubble will burst and that our club have missed the boat.
This World Cup has demonstrated that football is still growing. Let us go for it big, let us not miss this chance.
7 Posted 02/07/2018 at 00:56:05
8 Posted 02/07/2018 at 00:59:48
I must admit that history will judge Kenwright harshly. I just wish he would have released the trainset a bit earlier, as he held us back. When we had Cahill, Tim Howard, Landon Donovan etc playing for us, we made no advances to capture any US and Australian fans. You only have to look at how the Turkish fans have gone mad for our shirts now that we have Tosun playing for us.
The lack of ambition and investment under Kenwrights watch has turned us into also rans. Lets hope Moshiri can deliver the new stadium...
9 Posted 02/07/2018 at 01:13:40
We messed up the opportunity we had with the Americans, Thais and even the Chinese players we had.. all promised to open up markets we were never able to capitalise on.
I bet there were some poisonous glances whenever that kitbag deal came up in conversation.
10 Posted 02/07/2018 at 01:44:11
Kicking off by quoting Warren Buffet, a pirate only missing an eye patch and Robert Newton with a parrot on his shoulder. “Risk comes from not knowing what youre doing.” Well, yeah, Buffet says that now he's rich and famous.
You applied the quote in the context of Everton building a Team and a new stadium, neither of which Buffet has done.
Everton and Warren Buffet. America's Phillip Green with a proper media branch.
11 Posted 02/07/2018 at 05:11:33
As to whether he knew what he was doing rather depends on what his aim was. If it was to hold on to the club until he could sell at a massive profit, then he seems to have known what he was doing all along. However, if it was to see Everton as one of the most successful clubs, trophywise, then he has been an utter failure.
12 Posted 02/07/2018 at 07:40:13
The fundamentals often get lost in the fog of the transfer season or the trials and tribulations of a season.
What Paul says is true, the evidence is there for all to see . Over the last 30 years we have slipped from the elite to a position of mediocrity as a club. While other teams have plans and foresight which are executed, we have stumbled from season to season, expecting each manager to make silk purses from pigs ears, exacerbated by diabolical scouting and recruitment compared with competitors.
What is also true is the empirical importance of the new stadium. This, and only this will mark a turning point for the club and its ability to CONSISTENTLY compete at the very top of the table. Without it we are resigned to terminal mediocrity with fleeting highs and lows.
The time has come NOW for the new board with Mr Moshiri to show us at last we have the right team of forward thinking professionals who really do “know what they are doing”.
I am optimistic that the sweeping changes this summer show that at last they do know what they are doing .
I am also optimistic that Mr Moshiri himself or maybe with Mr Usmanov will pull out all the stops and overcome all obstacles to create one of the worlds great football stadiums on the waterfront.
The motto may have some life it in it yet.
13 Posted 02/07/2018 at 07:59:55
It appears you don't think any of the newly formed board are capable of stepping up to the executive chairman role.
If so that means as you say, that a new person has to be introduced to take the executive chairmans' seat.
My question would be - would that new chairman be happy with the recently restructured board - or would he want to dismantle it and start again?
Or perhaps Farhad Moshiri already has someone lined up?
14 Posted 02/07/2018 at 08:22:46
Such a shame to think where the club were at when I started supporting them in the mid 80s compared to the last 20+ years, I am not sure we are not too far adrift and the rich boys club is beyond us, I hope I am wrong but the next few years it is imperative we get things right with new stadium in the boardroom and on the pitch.
Hopefully he is to be put out to pasture come August and the club can be run like a business and not like some tragic character in a soppy soap opera.
15 Posted 02/07/2018 at 08:46:09
16 Posted 02/07/2018 at 09:17:00
17 Posted 02/07/2018 at 09:26:17
18 Posted 02/07/2018 at 10:54:40
Risk averse? depending on what you were trying to achieve, I actually think those in charge of the club had but one objective, personal profit without personal exposure.
In the process the dereliction of duty towards all stakeholders was astounding in its incompetence. Was that due to a lack of experience or an arrogant delusion of self-grandeur? In truth probably both.. an awful combination.
I think they knew perfectly well what they were doing, the risk to them was minimised by a lack of personal skin in the game. Risk to the club was immense, its very survival.. and that was because the risk to the clubs future was dependent of the financial profit made by a few.
So were was the risk? If the Directors and Co go it wrong then they lost out on a windfall profit, but didn't lose a penny. To the club, the financial brinkmanship of no investment meant the decline of status and standing, the bank at the door and subsequently the selling off of better players and the signing of journeymen. The slippery slope.
The directors were lucky to find the golden goose... but they still hang on for another pay day. If it was a company, they would have been sacked... What came first? A poor club or a poor board? I think the later made the former worse...
19 Posted 02/07/2018 at 11:17:14
Look at all the players who have left for big fees over the past 15 seasons and tell me he has not been making a decent profit.
He wanted no opposition to how he ran the club so I don't think his heart was ever in the right place.
20 Posted 02/07/2018 at 11:52:02
Had he been accountable in any way he'd have been sacked over the Kings Dock fiasco, instead of which he's made himself minted by finding Moshiri, a bloke who has yet to reveal any real aptitude as far as I can see for the task in hand of restoring us to where we all believe we should always have been from the moment the Premier League was created, by us, being one of the chosen few.
With him STILL in place, in any capacity, the malaise goes on.
21 Posted 02/07/2018 at 12:25:17
Because Moshiri is classed as a billionaire, it has been assumed by so many people that the big fees spent on some players in the last two years is down to him.
But the way I read the situation, the money for those big fees and wages has come from the huge TV broadcasting deal. Do you agree?
Secondly, yes, I agree the stadium issue is of huge importance. I am worrying more at the moment though about the playing side.
I like our new manager. But I believe that his preferred style of play is somewhat at odds with the nature of the squad he has inherited.
I wait with huge interest to see the number and quality of players the club signs before the window shuts on, I believe, August 9.
Just wondering if Silva's job title should be Miracle Worker.
I hope people aren't expecting too much this season in terms of league placing. Of course, we can always hope for a cup, if we field full-strength teams.
22 Posted 02/07/2018 at 12:30:41
23 Posted 02/07/2018 at 13:14:58
Even when Kendall had put together a decent side in 1984 there were rumblings that some players wanted more money and Howard had to fight the club's hierarchy, to get the players the cash to keep them at Goodison, thankfully he and his players won that battle and we benifitted from a seeing a hungy side challenge for trophies at home and abroad.
Like others have mentioned, Moshiri, perhaps arrived a few years too late to make the real difference that his money may have made if he or somebody similar had arrived five years earlier.
Kenwright always told the fan-base that he gave/sanctioned every penny that he could to add to the quality of the squad, however, that has been part of the problem at Everton, for there is far more to running a football club than putting a team out on the pitch. Buying and selling players is important and possibly the most important element of a football club, but what about the infrastructure, the commercial deals, the building of the brand, outside of the confines of the Merseyside region?
It could be argued that the club has been managed to the best of its abilities during the Kenwright era, but the limitations of those abilities is what has really set the club back in comparison to its traditional rivals. Therefore, the move to a new stadium is of paramount importance, but not as important as having a team of people who strive every minute of every day to make improvements to every facet of the club.
I don't know whether we have the right people in positions of power within the club to take it forward, I can only hope that we have, but I'm not expecting Everton to regain it's former status in the near future, because after so many years of decline it wlll take a lot of time and money to reverse that trend and that's only if the leadership have the ambition to make it so.
24 Posted 02/07/2018 at 16:21:40
Many people have written similar articles about this for over a decade, and were often castigated on here and elsewhere as some kind of traitors. Ulterior motives and sham or poor decisions have been shouting at us for practically his entire tenure, yet all it took was the odd Boys Pen anecdote, and absolute howlers like the Kings Dock and Destination Kirkby debacles were forgiven with barely a whimper by so many.
The continual refusal to answer concerned shareholders' questions at AGMs and the suspension of those AGMs when the questions mounted up, yet the dissenters were still shouted down. Tbh this article could've been written 15 years ago. We've all let this happen!
25 Posted 02/07/2018 at 16:59:21
Will times improve for Everton? It looks so far and early days, that Brands has put his template for business down, and won't take no crap from the board.
A long work in progress but if the club doesn't get it right this time, then I don't think there will be a next time, such has been the chronic neglect and ensuing terminal decline of a once very proud club.
Times have changed and so far Brands is in his own way derisking the club, but will Moshiri be able to secure private funding for Bramley Moore Dock? Let's hope so, and soon.
26 Posted 02/07/2018 at 17:43:59
One of the key points of the article is that none of the board over the last 25 years "knew what they were doing". Not only by virtue of the appalling commercial deals we entered, but by virtue of thinking that retaining majority control (collectively) was a good investment decision when clearly they did not have the resources (people or cash) to exploit the opportunities.
I'd argue that good investors would have realised long before they eventually conceded, that holding a smaller stake in a properly capitalised business would have been financially beneficial to them and of course the club.
This is born out by the valuation on selling half to Moshiri. He agreed to a value of £175 million meaning a 25% stake would be worth £43.75 million. Let's say for argument's sake over the years investors had been allowed in and that 25% had been diluted down to 10%. If the business had kept par with the valuations of Liverpool or Spurs for example that 10% would have been worth £75/£100m plus.
Their own lack of commercial acumen not only damaged the club put they paid a heavy price too – hence referring to the Warren Buffett definition of risk – "They didn't know what they were doing".
I hope that pattern is changing, but as I suggest we need additional board members to ensure the case.
27 Posted 03/07/2018 at 10:16:46
Maybe my memory serves me wrong (I left ther UK in November 1986) but I had spent many years travelling around UK and Europe supporting our club,so am I right or way off target with this? In my memories, we had won the First Division title the year that the Uefa ban on English clubs in European competitions came in. We should have been in the European Cup the following season. If my memory serves me right, the year they lifted the ban the RS had won the First Division and they were allowed in to play the European Cup. A load of shite!
If my memory is correct (and I am sure there are many on here who will let me know if it is wrong) this was not too short of the formation of the Premier League and the change in "money supply" that went with it.
Although I have friends who are RS fans, I hate the corporate RS club! I wasn't too fond previously but this took the biscuit!
This left us in a weaker position at the very start of the Premier League. The rest goes down to the mismanagement and poor direction etc.
I welcome corrections to my senior moment memories!!!
28 Posted 03/07/2018 at 17:37:52
That's about right but the bit you've omitted is Everton not challenging the ban in the Courts particularly as an innocent party who had played in a European Final the week before without any trouble whatsoever (if you don't include the result of the pick-up game against the local law).
It has been pointed out before by several people that it seemed to lead to knighthoods for certain people who put the British Government's position first.
29 Posted 04/07/2018 at 15:53:47
I am far from a business man, but it is my contention that the early decisions in the Premier-League era were carried out by the hapless Peter Johnson. He needs to take alot of the blame for the state we were in when we sold Duncan Ferguson to Newcastle, a move which ultimately forced Johnson to sell to Kenwright.
Kenwright is a theatre impresario, a self-made man; but by no means a business man in the traditional sense. I don't think he ever pretended to be, either.
He almost immediately began the process of looking out for a long-term investor who could take the club back to where it belonged. It took him a long time and he got a number of decisions wrong, but he also got alot right. Moyes was the right appointment at the time and he did, ultimately find Mr Moshiri - who appears at this point to be a far better option than Lerner at Aston Villa or the guy at Sunderland (Short, I think).
Kenwright never pretended to be anything other than a willing, passionate Bluenose with the means to save us from the mire of Peter Johnson's awful era - where we did go from competitive "elite" club to also-ran in 6-8 years.
The only lament I have with Bill is that it took him so long to find us our benefactor. I am not one of those that thinks he secretly wasn't trying.
30 Posted 04/07/2018 at 16:39:37
My biggest concern is that BK is still involved - even today apparently MB & MS were in London to meet BK re transfer policy! Frightening!
The same clown who flogged Lukaku cheap, and a year before he needed to, to his favoured reds down the East Lancs in order to get an over-the-hill and overpaid has-been back here is still heavily involved in our transfer business!!!
We need to get him out a.s.a.p. He should have been fired instead of or before Koeman.
31 Posted 04/07/2018 at 16:47:40
Add to that the number of parties who were permitted by Kenwright to do due diligence by inspecting the books after having tabled offers based on whatever woffle he'd told them, the one thing all such potential purchasers having in common being the speed with which they departed the due diligence, never to return, and again the club, fans and supporters suffered, for many years.
And that's before we get to the evasiveness he consistently showed when share holders sought clarity on the club's finances, from which THEIR own finances suffered, whilst he seems (and I say "seems" because it's never yet come fully to light in my opinion) to have spent years in cahoots with Sir "Thanks Tony" Phillip Green, that bastion of so-called probity that led Kenwright to describe him as "The Mozart of Money" (!!!). Needless to say, Green's involvement, with him being an active and avid Spurs fan by the way, led the way to yet more years of zilch for the club.
Some record that, but at least Bill has made £tens of millions for himself, so that's all right then I suppose.
And now the Mirror has today reported that he's STILL advising on transfers. Shit!
32 Posted 04/07/2018 at 21:36:06
"Sir" Philip Shifty was probably likened to Mozart because he was good at fiddling and hopefully he'll end up in a pauper's grave just like him.
33 Posted 04/07/2018 at 23:48:54
34 Posted 10/07/2018 at 09:56:41
35 Posted 13/07/2018 at 04:11:05
Falling attendances - this has happened before (in the early 1970s) - there are signs it is happening again, and the age profile of crowds is another worry as the youth are priced out and never get the same attachment as those who attend from an early age. This may then be reflected in TV viewings
European super league - frankly this will completely kill us and make the stadium a white elephant. Paradoxically the more successful the PL is the more likely a European super league will emerge, say once Stoke start cherry picking Real Madrid for their best players (don't laugh - look at the once mighty Ajax, Celtic, Rangers etc)
Collapse of the cable tv model - many are cutting the cable, its getting harder and harder to control live coverage and selling again and again in different geographies.
Your overall point is good though. We need smart people to think through and assess risks such as these.
36 Posted 13/07/2018 at 07:34:08
37 Posted 13/07/2018 at 07:37:11
Also any views on DBB ? She seems to get a lot of things instinctively right.
38 Posted 13/07/2018 at 07:41:04
39 Posted 13/07/2018 at 08:42:17
As is pointed out earlier in this stream, last year's player investment was funded by sales and a huge increase in Premier League generated money rather than any 'benefactor'. Here's betting it will be the same this time round, too !
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