Wagner may pick up stake in Birmingham City


Birmingham City take over close Image: St Andrew’s Stadium, fitzyt, CC BY 3.0

Hedge fund Manager Tom Wagner is close to buying a stake in the EFL Championship team Birmingham City Football Club (UK), according to people familiar with the matter.

‘Bloomberg’ stated that Wagner is a Co-Founder of Knighthead Capital Management, which oversees about $9 billion and focuses on event-driven investing and distressed credit. The New York-based firm declined to comment.

The Birmingham City Football Club is a professional football club based in Birmingham, England (UK). Formed in 1875 as Small Heath Alliance, it was renamed Small Heath in 1888, Birmingham in 1905, and Birmingham City in 1943. Since 2011, the first team have competed in the EFL Championship, the second tier of English football.

The 29,409-capacity St Andrew’s is an association football stadium in the Bordesley district of Birmingham, England (UK). It has been the home ground of Birmingham City Football Club for more than a century. From 2018 to 2021, it was known for sponsorship reasons as the St Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium.

The Knighthead Capital Management, LLC is a New York (US)-based Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)-registered investment adviser founded in 2008. The firm focuses on long-short investments and specializes in event-driven, distressed credit and special situation opportunities across a broad array of industries.

The English Football League (EFL) Championship, known simply as the Championship in England (UK) and for sponsorship purposes as the Sky Bet Championship, is the highest division of the English Football League (EFL) and second-highest overall in the English football league system after the Premier League, and is currently contested by 24 clubs.

‘Bloomberg’ further stated that the above deal includes the purchase of St. Andrew’s Stadium, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information.

Wagner would join other US buyers targeting the lower UK leagues, boosted by a strong dollar and Americans’ growing interest in British football. US-based investors have bet on teams including the League One club Ipswich Town F.C., the EFL League One club Lincoln City F.C. and the EFL League Two club Crawley Town F.C.

This month, a Knighthead subsidiary set up Shelby Companies Limited, a business registered in Birmingham (UK) that has the same name as a fictional firm in crime drama Peaky Blinders (British drama series). Last year, Wagner led a group including Tom Brady (American former football quarterback) and former World No. 1 tennis player Kim Clijsters (Belgian former professional tennis player) to buy a pickleball team.

Pickleball is an indoor or outdoor racket/paddle sport where two players, or four players, hit a perforated hollow plastic ball over a 36-inch-high net using solid-faced paddles. Opponents on either side of the net hit the ball back and forth until one side commits a rule infraction.

Premier League

Founded in 1875, the Birmingham City F.C. has struggled financially since being relegated from the Premier League in 2011. The club, which currently sits in the 15th place in the second-tier Championship, reported a pre-tax loss of £24.8 million ($31 million) for the year ended June 2022. In accounts for the period, the club’s Directors said “major repair works” were needed at the St. Andrew’s Stadium.

Chinese investor Paul Suen owns a majority stake of the club after a 2016 takeover. Recently, his company, Birmingham Sports Holdings, said in a filing that it entered into discussions with an unnamed buyer for the sale of a 24 percent stake.

Co-Owners Oriental Rainbow Investments and Achiever Global Group also entered into a separate letter of intent with the purchaser to potentially sell an additional 21.64 percent.

A new owner may raise Birmingham City F.C.’s profile. In 2021, the Canadian-American actor Ryan Reynolds and American actor Rob McElhenney bought the fifth-tier Welsh team Wrexham A.F.C. – which has since become the subject of a new Disney documentary series, ‘Welcome to Wrexham’.

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