Ipswich Town: A Guide to the American Takeover

Marcus Evans sold Ipswich Town to a group of American investors. Andy Warren breaks the deal.

What happened?

It’s a day to remember in Ipswich Town.

Marcus Evans sold the club to American investors after more than 13 years at the helm, in a deal valued at around £ 40million.

This means that a group called Gamechanger 20 Ltd now controls the club, although they do not own 100% of the Blues.

They own almost 90%, the rest being owned by Ipswich Town PLC. They are the group of shareholders who already owned stakes in the club prior to the purchase of Evans in 2007.

To date, Mike O’Leary, a member of the Gamechanger group, is the new president of Ipswich Town.

Brett Johnson, one of four Americans involved in the Ipswich Town buyout. Photo: WPRI.com
– Credit: WPRI.com

Who are Gamechanger 20 Ltd?

This is a group created with the aim of buying out Ipswich Town Football Club. He has no other business interests.

90% of the company is owned by the American investment company ORG Portfolio Management, the remaining 10% being divided between four people.

Brett Johnson, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer, who are also part of the co-owner group of the American club Phoenix Rising, are teaming up to own 5% of Gamechanger. The remaining 5% is owned by outgoing town owner Evans, who is now taking a stake in the company.

Who are the Three Lions?

This is the name used by Johnson, Bakay and Detmer to form their stake in Gamechanger.

They have already achieved success with Phoenix Rising, where they have become a real force in the American second tier and are moving to a new 10,000-seat stadium.

Where does the money come from?

While the Three Lions bring experience and vision, the vast majority of funding comes from ORG.

Their money comes from an investment from a US pension fund, considered to be the state of Arizona. The fund will want to see a return on their investment, with real money if the Blues reach the Premier League.

ORG’s representative on Gamechanger’s board of directors is Ed Schwartz, one of the company’s founding partners in 1999.

Through his firm’s portfolio, he is said to have control of assets worth over $ 6.5 billion.

New Ipswich Town President Mike O'Leary

Ipswich Town President Mike O’Leary has been described as “a wise old owl” by Managing Director Mark Ashton.
– Credit: ITFC

Who runs Ipswich Town?

The Three Lions will be set back in the day-to-day management of Ipswich Town given they are based in the United States.

It is said that they will visit “from time to time”, instead leaving much of the day-to-day running of the club to Mike O’Leary, who sits on the board of Gamechanger and is the new chairman of Ipswich Town.

A new chief executive will be appointed in the coming days or weeks, with the man set to be current Bristol City CEO Mark Ashton. He previously worked with O’Leary in Oxford and West Brom.

What’s Evans involved now?

Evans now owns 5% of Gamechanger but will not be able to make decisions. He said he was looking forward to continuing his association with the club, mainly as a supporter.

He also kept a small part of the club’s training ground – an unused area on the Bent Lane side that was previously reserved for accommodation.

Lee O'Neill said there are no offers on the table to buy Marcus Evans from Ipswich Town

Marcus Evans sold Ipswich Town
– Credit: Steve Waller

What happened to the debt?

Under Evans, Ipswich Town’s debt hit the £ 100million mark, which is almost entirely owed to him.

But as part of that deal, that debt was largely written off, with the vast majority of what remains owed to the club’s new owners.

What happens to the automaton?

Due to the nature of the transaction, the new owners are required to make an offer for the shares currently held by the natural persons comprising Ipswich Town PLC.

It will be up to individuals to accept them or not, but there is a chance, albeit unlikely, that Gamechanger will end up owning 100% of the club.

About John A. Provost

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