Everton Is Back on Market as Deal With 777 Partners Falters

Advisors for Everton, one of the oldest teams in English soccer and a founding member of the Premier League, have begun searching for an alternative buyer for the financially stricken club, according to people familiar with the decision who requested anonymity to discuss private talks.

Everton announced in September that it had signed an agreement to sell the club to an American investment firm, 777 Partners. But seven months later, the Premier League has still not granted more than conditional approval of the deal amid questions about 777’s financials.

At the same time, the club continues to struggle on and off the field. Everton has already been handed two points deductions this season for failing to comply with the Premier League’s financial rules, leaving it in danger of its first demotion out of English soccer’s top division since 1951.

Of perhaps more concern is the state of the 146-year-old club’s finances. Everton has now borrowed about £160 million (almost $200 million) from 777 Partners, a privately held investment company — cash infusions that have been required to help the team stave off bankruptcy.

But with questions mounting over the finances of 777 Partners and legal troubles it faces in the United States, the accountancy firm Deloitte has been empowered by Everton’s embattled British-Iranian owner, Farhad Moshiri, to speak to other potential buyers, according to the people familiar with the move.

A spokesman for Mr. Moshiri said the agreement with 777 “remains in place” and they continue to work toward completion.

But with concerns about the club’s perilous state growing, Deloitte has reached out to other potential saviors, including the sovereign wealth funds of several Middle Eastern nations, including Qatar. The Premier League already has team owners from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Last month, Mr. Moshiri assured Everton fans in a letter that the deal was finally in the “home straight.” The head of 777 Partners, Josh Wander, also sought to do the same, writing that he and his company remained committed to working with supporters “once we are owners of Everton FC.”

Until a sale is completed, however, Everton’s immediate future remains bleak. Its new $900 million stadium remains half-finished, and any new owner will be required to find the funds to complete the work. The team sits 16th in the 20-team Premier League. But it faces the risk of further points deductions because its losses have continued to exceed cost-control rules established by the Premier League. It could also be deducted points should the team become insolvent.

The lack of progress in the Everton sale has extended the scrutiny of 777 Partners, which also owns soccer teams in Brazil, Belgium and Germany. At various points, the company has struggled to meet spending requirements at those clubs, frustrating team officials and worrying soccer regulators.

Outside soccer, the company has faced a series of lawsuits and liquidity crises. Recently, one of its biggest financiers, a New York-based insurance company, said it would reduce its exposure to the company.

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