For eight months, 777 Partners has been trying to buy Everton, but the takeover looks increasingly unlikely to go through.

The Miami-based investment firm has been accused of fraud by a pair of London-based asset management companies and has needed to call in restructuring experts to try to save the business. Everton, meanwhile, revealed that 777’s agreement to buy the club will expire at the end of the month and they are now pursuing “alternative scenarios” in their quest for a new owner.

The immediate focus of 777 appears to be on survival, rather than adding to its roster of clubs.

But if 777 collapses, it would have far-reaching repercussions, affecting teams from France to Brazil, Australia to Italy. Discontent has been welling at some of the clubs in the 777 family — under the 777 Football Group umbrella — for a while, with supporters increasingly anxious about the future. Others appear to be burying their heads in the sand and hoping the problem goes away.

Here, The Athletic looks at how existing members of 777’s football portfolio are confronting the crisis — if at all.

GO DEEPER

Everton, 777 and a takeover that still hasn’t happened. So what now?


Standard Liege, Belgium

They are far from the only 777-owned club in flux, but Standard are almost certainly the most combustible.

This week, board member Jean-Michel Javaux confirmed he had offered his resignation, saying that he hoped it would provide an “electroshock”. In a statement published on Facebook, Javaux spoke of the “critical financial situation of the club” and criticised 777 for its lack of communication in recent months, but added that he had been asked by Don Dransfield, CEO of 777 Football Group, to stay on in an interim capacity and help with “the transition”.

“For months, we have sounded the alarm over the lack of information on the sporting project, the financial situation of the owners and their lack of attendance at the stadium,” Javaux wrote.

“(Fellow board member) Pierre Locht, on multiple occasions, has highlighted the critical financial situation and the need for cash. The lack of response from the owners to the mid-and-long-term demands was no longer supportable. We are not accomplices of 777.”

Javaux also suggested that 777’s co-founders Josh Wander and Steven Pasko had been removed from Standard’s board. In their absence, Dransfield, a former chief strategy officer of City Football Group, is understood to be leading the Miami group’s sporting strategy at Liege and elsewhere.


A fan banner outside Standard’s Maurice Dufrasne stadium (Bruno Fahy/Belga/AFP via Getty Images)

Supporters have been increasing the pressure on 777 to sell the club after what is seen as another season of underachievement on the pitch. The 10-time Belgian champions finished 10th in the Pro League regular season and cannot qualify for UEFA competition via the division’s European play-offs.

Standard were forced to postpone their game against KVC Westerlo last Friday night due to protests by fans against the owners, with members of Ultras Inferno 1996 blockading players at the club’s training ground before the match. Banners reading, “Standard on strike, f*** 777” and “777 game over” were also placed around Standard’s Maurice Dufrasne stadium.

“Our beloved club is bankrupt in sporting terms and even more so financially,” a statement from the group read. “These are the darkest times in the club’s history. These bandits are being sued on all sides across the Atlantic and our club’s survival is in danger.”

The situation remains extremely delicate, with reports in Belgium suggesting 777 are looking to find a buyer for the embattled club.

This month, former owner Bruno Venanzi and the shareholders of the club’s stadium alleged they had not received the second instalment owed to them as part of 777’s acquisition in 2022.


Westerlo’s players on the pitch in the absence of their hosts (Bruno Fahy/AFP via Getty Images)

Standard were hit with a temporary transfer ban last week due to what the club said was a failure to provide proof of payments during a routine monthly check. They added they were “confident” of lifting that sanction within the coming days and stressed they did not believe it would impact their summer transfer business or their licence to play next season.

Belgian reports suggest staff wages have since been paid but their late arrival has been a running theme throughout the season, with several players considering their futures as a result.

In January, Newcastle United midfielder Isaac Hayden said he would initiate legal proceedings against Standard, alleging they failed to pay his wages on time. More high-profile departures, on the sporting and executive sides, are now likely to follow.

Patrick Boyland


The men who want to buy football clubs


Vasco da Gama, Brazil

There was plenty of excitement at Vasco when 777 pitched up in February 2022, agreeing to invest 700million Brazilian Reais ($333m or £263m at the time) over three years in exchange for a 70 per cent stake in the club.

“This will be year zero,” said club president Jorge Salgado, who promised “a new, glorious, sustainable, debt-free future”.

Initially, the idea energised fans, who have endured more hardship than most in recent decades. Vasco are one of Brazilian football’s most historic institutions but have been held back by mismanagement. When 777 arrived, the team was gearing up for a second successive season in the second division — and a fifth year outside the top flight since their first relegation in 2008.

A month after the takeover, 777’s Wander promised that the forthcoming derby against Flamengo would be the last time Vasco would face their biggest rivals without a comparable budget — a remarkable claim given the financial chasm between the two clubs.

Still, supporters appreciated the fighting talk, and there were early signals that 777 was introducing a degree of professionalism that had previously been lacking. When Vasco were promoted back to Serie A at the end of 2022, it felt like something special was brewing.

The 18 months since then have been more fractious. 777 has been slow to renovate Vasco’s training complex because the land belongs to the Rio de Janeiro council and not the club itself. A large tranche of the takeover funding — around £18million— was due last September but only paid in full a month later, causing significant disquiet.

On the pitch, Vasco underperformed in 2023, scraping together just enough points for survival rather than pushing for the top half. There have been some exciting signings — former West Ham United, Marseille and France playmaker Dimitri Payet joined in August — but the squad is lacking depth. The ire of Brazilian fans tends to fall upon coaches and directors rather than owners but there is a growing feeling that 777’s approach to transfer business is overly bureaucratic and cautious.

That view has percolated into the stands. There were protests during the game against Vitoria on Sunday, with supporters holding up banners. “Suffering, anguish, failure,” they read, capturing an increasingly febrile mood.

Two weeks earlier, club janitors had spent Monday morning washing down the walls of the stadium after they were daubed with graffiti overnight. Among the usual howls of displeasure — “777 out”, “f*** 777” — was one slightly more sober message, elaborated in white paint.

“Vasco doesn’t need you,” it read. “Go home.”

Those fans may now get their wish. On Wednesday evening, a judge in Rio suspended the takeover contract, effectively sidelining 777 and handing control back to the club’s board. It is only a preliminary ruling, but the writing, once again, is on the wall.

Jack Lang


Hertha Berlin, Germany

The mood in Berlin towards 777 has not quite reached the levels seen elsewhere. 777 has owned a 64.7 per cent stake in Hertha BSC since March 2023, but the club’s members retain the majority voting rights, allowing the club to remain compliant with Germany’s 50+1 rule. There is a slender degree of protection that does not exist elsewhere.

There is also local context. Most German supporters have an inbuilt distrust of outside investment and the native football culture is inherently suspicious.


Hertha fans display a ‘777 only in the casino! Against investors in the club!’ banner in April 2023 (Andreas Gora/picture alliance via Getty Images)

That said, 777 purchased its shares in the club from Lars Windhorst, who made the biggest investment in Bundesliga history in 2019 by spending €374million (now £321m; $406m), signing a flurry of big-ticket players and promising to turn Hertha into a “big city club”. To the rest of the league’s mirth, the only trajectory was down.

Hertha flirted with relegation in 2022 before falling out of the Bundesliga in 2023. More broadly, Windhorst’s time at the club descended into outright farce: a spectacular falling out with initial managerial appointment Jurgen Klinsmann was an early red flag, but the low point was the revelation that Windhorst had hired an Israeli detective agency in an attempt to unseat the club’s then-president, Werner Gegenbauer.

Windhorst’s Hertha was a circus and, needless to say, his departure was not — in relative terms — particularly alarming.


Hertha’s president Kai Bernstein, who died in January, and managing director Thomas Herrich welcome Wander to the club in March 2023 (Andreas Gora/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The team have stabilised in Bundesliga 2. A dreadful start was followed by a promising finish, but the club had to contend with the death of Kai Bernstein in January 2024. Bernstein was a former ultra and his ascension to the presidency was, to many, a sign of a more positive, fan-led future.

Bernstein was 43 and his unexpected passing caused profound shock.

Recently, concern has been building around 777. Opposition clubs have even been protesting against them — in their recent game against Osnabruck, St Pauli displayed a banner demanding that 777 be “kicked out of football”.

 

In Berlin, fans reacted to the scenes in Belgium and from Everton fan groups by messaging their club to express alarm regarding the future of their strategic partner and largest shareholder.

It moved the club to respond officially. On May 11, the club released a statement acknowledging the messages but clarifying that 777 had “met all of its contractual obligations” and “made all of the agreed payments on time”.

So far.

Whether that provides any reassurance, especially with escalating protests towards 777 across Europe and in South America, is another matter. One fan, Fritz Muller, spoke to The Athletic, describing “mixed feelings” towards 777. “I’d say that my opinion is shared with many Hertha fans about investors in football in that I dislike them. However, after the whole Windhorst drama, some sort of money (investor) was needed to keep the club alive.”

Is Muller concerned? “Definitely. This feels kind of the worst-case scenario that could happen to an investor-owned club. I don’t know too much about how likely a bankruptcy is for them — but after Windhorst, this feels like the next step on a downward chaos spiral.

“Especially after it felt like the club was on a good way under Kai Bernstein.”

Sebastian Stafford-Bloor

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Why are Bundesliga games being disrupted by toy cars and tennis balls?


Genoa, Italy

As Italy’s biggest port town, Genoa has been engulfed in so many scandals recently that its famous lighthouse can’t shine a light on them all.

777’s plight has, for instance, been overshadowed by local politics. The biggest story in Italy regards Giovanni Toti, the governor of the Liguria region, and an investigation into alleged corruption that led to him and one of Genoa’s old owners, Aldo Spinelli, being placed under house arrest.

But back to football.

The spotlight in the city for the last year has instead fallen on Genoa’s rivals Sampdoria who were at risk of bankruptcy only to be rescued at the eleventh hour by a consortium featuring Andrea Radrizzani, the former owner of Leeds United. As Sampdoria experienced relegation for the first time in more than a decade and breathed a sigh of relief that it was only to Serie B and not the bottom of the football pyramid in Italy, Genoa passed them on the way back to the top flight.

go-deeper

Bought by 777 in the autumn of 2021 and demoted in 2022, the fans in the Gradinata Nord gave their new owners a pass for a simple reason: they weren’t Enrico Preziosi. Anyone, even 777, was considered a better custodian of Italy’s oldest football club than him.

It didn’t matter that they got rid of Davide Ballardini and made Andriy Shevchenko their first managerial appointment without a sporting director in place, only to sack the former Ukraine striker after 10 games and drop into Serie B after 15 consecutive seasons in the top flight.

Unlike at some of its other clubs, 777 was welcomed and it was accepted Genoa had been circling the drain of relegation for some time.


Andres Blazquez (in the suit), operating partner at 777 turned CEO of Genoa, meets fans in 2021 (Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Widely regarded as a basket case of a club, 777 subsequently took legal action against Preziosi shortly after he resigned from his retained position on the board. The case over the scale of alleged hidden liabilities under his stewardship went to arbitration last summer. Whether it rumbles on will presumably depend on 777 staying as owner.

Genoa’s immediate bounce back to Serie A, while shaving €22million off the wage bill, was heralded as a big success, particularly as Genoa spent 12 years outside the top tier after their last relegation in 1995.

The promotion was not, however, without one of the recurrent features of 777’s multi-club platform — Genoa were docked a point for a missed tax payment.

All that was forgotten amid the jubilant celebrations that followed promotion under head coach Alberto Gilardino. The raucous atmosphere was restored to Marassi.

On the face of it, Genoa appear to be in safe hands. Honorary president Alberto Zangrillo is one of Italy’s most respected medical professionals and famously attended to Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister. Two games of the season remain and the team has a slim chance at finishing in the top half for the first time since the 2014-15 season when Gian Piero Gasperini qualified Genoa for Europe only for UEFA to exclude the club on account of Preziosi’s financial mismanagement. You can imagine how Genoa fans reacted when rivals Sampdoria took their place.

Memories of those days and the general messy context of Italian football mean, for now, few questions have been asked about 777 in Italy. Group football director Johannes Spors set Genoa on the right track before delegating to Marco Ottolini, who used his connections at previous club Juventus to good effect.


Wander, Spors and Blazquez before a game against Benevento in August 2022 (Simone Arveda/Getty Images)

Radu Dragusin was sold to Tottenham in January for a big profit and Belgium international Koni De Winter will also bring in good money if needed.

Early Spors signings Albert Gudmundsson, one of the stars of this season’s Serie A, and Morten Frendrup are also attracting interest from Italy’s elite and the Premier League. Mateo Retegui, the striker signed out of Argentina, could lead the line for Italy at the European Championship this summer.

Nevertheless, if 777 goes under, the repercussions for Genoa should not be underestimated. The club’s most recent set of accounts shows 777 has pumped €129m into the club since the takeover.

Serie A tends to bury its head in the sand in cases like these — this one is no different.

James Horncastle


Red Star, France

Of all the clubs within the 777 stable, Red Star seemed to be one of its more successful ventures.

The club was sold by Patrice Haddad, owner since 2008, in May 2022. In their first season, they finished third in the French third tier, Le Championnat National, two points off promotion. They have been crowned champions this season and will return to Ligue 2 after a five-year absence.

But it has not all been a tale of contentment.

From the moment the club were sold, there was unrest. “Today is a dark day in the history of Red Star,” wrote supporters from La Tribune Rino Della Negra, an association formed of two fan groups, Red Star Fans and Collectif Stade Bauer. “The fight has only just begun.”

The club’s identity has been at the heart of fan resistance. Red Star was founded in 1897 by former FIFA president and godfather of the World Cup, Jules Rimet, and is the fourth-oldest in France. It has prided itself on its community identity, mainly defined by the left-wing values of its fanbase. Those principles jarred with the sale of the club to an American private investment company, with fans further irked by their inclusion within the framework of a multi-club organism.

There were other reservations, too.

“We are extremely worried, but also angry, because when 777 Partners wanted to buy the club, we immediately opposed the takeover,” said Vincent Chutet-Mezance, president of Red Star supporter’s Collectif Stade Bauer, speaking to French news outlet Ouest-France this month. “We’ve been saying for two years that 777 Partners’ practices are not clear and that this investment fund is certainly not there for the good of Red Star.”

There have been fan protests. During the 2022-23 season, a match against Sete was abandoned after smoke bombs were flung onto the pitch. Anti-777 banners have been common. This month, fake bank notes were handed out by supporters that read “United Fakes of Florida” and “In Josh, we don’t trust” — referring to 777’s co-founder, Wander.

During its ownership, 777 has taken a back seat by entrusting Haddad, who stayed on as club president, with the running of the club. After the initial backlash, Wander outlined the company’s “long-term” ambitions with Red Star in L’Equipe in 2022, with a reported €30million investment planned within five years.

The club have progressed; under coach Habib Beye, the former Newcastle United defender, they secured promotion after reported investment was forthcoming. Off the field, the redevelopment of their once run-down home, Stade Bauer, has continued — although it is worth noting that the financing and planning of the project predated 777’s involvement and has been overseen by property development firm Realites.

For supporters, last week’s departure of Beye, who had stated he wished to see a “clear vision” at the club before deciding on his future, sounded another alarm bell.


Beye left Red Star this month (Antonin Utz/AFP via Getty Images)

On Monday, the club published a press release stating they had reassurances from 777 about the club’s financial readiness for next season before standard scrutiny by French football’s financial watchdog, the DNCG.

“The club would like to affirm that, to date, the 777 Football Group has not only fulfilled all its obligations towards Red Star,” it read, “but also regularly exchanges with the club on the budgetary construction of the 2024-25 season in anticipation of its passage before the DNCG.”

On the same day, supporters sounded the latest call to action with another protest scheduled for this weekend, on Saturday, May 18 at the Saint-Ouen town hall, ahead of their final home fixture with SAS Epinal.

“Fears expressed two years ago … are coming true,” wrote the fan group La Tribune Rino Della Negra. “Red Star’s future is in great danger. We call for the takeover of the club by a new owner, in a transparent framework, to define a new healthy and ambitious project excluding multi-ownership and without Patrice Haddad.”

Contacted again on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Red Star insisted to The Athletic that their stance had not changed since their statement earlier in the week. Regardless, this should be a period of celebration for Red Star. Instead, it is laced with uncertainty.

Peter Rutzler

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Jules Rimet’s other big idea (which turned out very differently to the World Cup)


Melbourne Victory, Australia

777’s Australian club moved quickly to cover some of the cracks caused by the recent financial uncertainty of their minority stakeholders.

Bonza, the low-cost Australian airline owned by 777, were Melbourne Victory’s front-of-shirt sponsor until the start of May, when the administrators were called in.

Visit the airline’s website now and you’re not going anywhere. “Bonza has temporarily suspended services,” it reads. “Discussions are underway regarding the ongoing viability of the business.”


Victory sported Bonza on the front of their shirts (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The club quickly found a new sponsor for the end of season play-offs, with insurance company AIA Australia — who also have a deal with Tottenham, managed by former Victory boss Ange Postecoglou — taking over.

Next was to find a new partner for the longer term. Turkish Airlines will take over from the start of the 2025-26 season on a three-year deal. An official club statement said: “Bonza, which is owned by 777 Partners, a strategic shareholder of Melbourne Victory, has been extremely supportive in allowing the club to maximise this new opportunity with Turkish Airlines, and will remain a major partner.”

When 777 took a 19.9 per cent stake in Melbourne Victory in October 2022, following the sudden death of former majority shareholder Mario Biasin, the club trumpeted the £3.5million buy-in as “one of the biggest investment deals into a single sports team in Australian history”. The club’s chairman, Anthony Di Pietro, said the partnership would “allow the club to supercharge its growth trajectory and ensure its longevity”.

The takeover terms paved the way for 777 to expand its holding to 70 per cent for an estimated £15m. If it opted against proceeding with the takeover, 777 could depart and be refunded any additional investment with a compounding interest of 10 per cent per year, albeit that would not cover recouping its initial 19.9 per cent stake.

Group CEO Dransfield joined the board and Wander said: “Football is poised for tremendous growth in Australia, and on this basis, it is strategically important for our group to be here.”

In September 2023, football finance expert Kieran Maguire described 777 as a “vampire lender” while discussing Melbourne Victory on his Price of Football podcast, a comment that was then put to the club’s managing director Caroline Carnegie during an interview with ESPN. She responded by making the case for being part of 777 Football Group.

“Additional equity is helpful in this gig and that was part of it,” she said. “But having somebody that had relationships with other clubs that could help us with commercial partnerships, fan engagement, new technology and pathways was a big part of it, too.”


Dransfield, Pasko and Wander (the last two wearing baseball caps) next to each other in the Everton directors’ box (Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)

Managed by former Crystal Palace defender Tony Popovic, they finished second bottom of the A-League last season, but recovered to third this campaign, qualifying them for the play-offs to decide the title.

“Melbourne Victory is aware of reports surrounding 777 Partners, a minority shareholder of the club, appointing a restructuring firm and the removal of Josh Wander and Steve Pasko from control of the 777 Football Group,” a club spokesperson told The Athletic. “Don Dransfield, who has been the Club’s 777 Partners conduit and support since late 2022, remains CEO of the Football Group.

“As with any shareholder, we will continue to monitor the situation, but can confirm Melbourne Victory is not financially (or otherwise) reliant on 777 Partners.”

Adam Leventhal


Sevilla, Spain

News of 777’s difficulties will have been welcomed by many in Seville, where ‘los americanos’ have been hugely unpopular with most at the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan since they began buying Sevilla shares back in early 2018.

As Juan Arciniegas, who was 777’s sports, media and entertainment lead, told The Athletic in May 2021, Sevilla had been identified as an opportunity due to the club’s player trading model, which was led by sporting director Monchi.

There was always plenty of opposition to 777’s plans. Sevilla have traditionally been controlled by shifting alliances of local families and the idea of foreign investment is not generally welcomed.

Although first invited in by former president Jose Castro, 777 has more recently been allied with another ex-president — Jose Maria del Nido Benavente. The investors built a shareholding of around 13 per cent, but 777 has not had a director since Andres Blazquez was forced off the Sevilla board during a bad-tempered meeting in December 2020. Blazquez was subsequently appointed CEO at Genoa.

“We did not see 777 as a trustworthy partner,” current Sevilla president Jose Maria del Nido Carrasco, Del Nido Benavente’s son, told The Athletic in March. “We believed their plan was to issue new club shares to prepare the sale of the club to another foreign fund.”


Sevilla president Del Nido Carrasco (Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Del Nido Carrasco also said he was aware of problems at 777’s other investments, and he was doing all he could to make sure they (and his father) could have zero influence on the club.

As recently as March, a spokesperson for the American company told The Athletic that they were still trying to push through “necessary financial reforms” at Sevilla, while admitting they had little power to do so given their small shareholding and lack of a board seat.

Reports have claimed that Russian oligarch Oleg Boyko, who was sanctioned by Ukraine, Canada and Australia in 2022 for alleged links to the Kremlin, financed at least some of 777’s investment in Sevilla and could now have a claim on their shares in the La Liga club.

Sevilla were contacted for comment.

Dermot Corrigan

(Top photo: Bruno Fahy/AFP via Getty Images)



Fonte