Brentford FC owner Benham eyes £400m valuation as sale kicks off

Business

The owner of Brentford, the Premier League football club, has engaged advisers to canvas offers of investment that could value one of the sport’s biggest recent success stories at more than £400m.

Sky News has learnt that Matthew Benham, who initially invested in the Bees in 2007, has hired Rothschild to oversee a process that could involve the sale of a controlling stake.

Rothschild is expected to kick off a formal process in the near future, with football industry experts anticipating that Brentford will become the latest in a string of top-flight clubs to draw interest from US-based investors.

Under Mr Benham’s stewardship, Brentford has become one of the most impressive clubs in English football, rising from the lower divisions to become a Premier League club in 2021.

It has also moved from its long-standing Griffin Park home to a new stadium near Kew Bridge.

One insider said that the current owner was open-minded about whether to sell a minority or majority shareholding in Brentford, but that any deal would be expected to value it at more than £400m.

If he does decide to offload a controlling stake, Mr Benham would want to remain as a minority investor for the long term, the insider added.

Such a price tag would reflect the soaring valuations of Premier League clubs even as uncertainty persists about the sport’s future financial arrangements.

Brentford
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Brentford are currently 14th in the Premier League table. Pic: Reuters

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Sky News revealed this week that the Premier League had called an emergency meeting of its 20 clubs for the end of this month in an effort to make progress towards a landmark settlement with the English Football League.

The meeting on February 29 will come at around the same time that Lucy Frazer, the culture secretary, publishes the Football Governance Bill, which intends to hand a new watchdog powers to impose a financial redistribution agreement on the sport.

An additional gathering has also been scheduled for March 11 if it is required to get a sufficient number of top-flight clubs voting in favour.

The New Deal is projected to cost Premier League clubs anywhere between £837m and £925m over six years, with the final figure dependent upon the payment of an £88m sum for the current season.

Last week, Sky News revealed that Ms Frazer had urged English football’s 92 professional clubs to resolve their differences over the prospective settlement.

Brentford's Nathan Collins (left) and Nottingham Forest's Callum Hudson-Odoi. Pic: PA
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Brentford’s Nathan Collins (left) and Nottingham Forest’s Callum Hudson-Odoi. Pic: PA

The culture secretary held separate talks with Premier League and English Football League (EFL) club executives last Thursday during which she told them not to wait until the new watchdog is established to put the finishing touches to the New Deal.

Talks over the agreement have been dragging on for many months.

In December, Richard Masters, the Premier League chief executive, notified clubs that it was calling a halt to further talks with the EFL because of divisions about the scale and structure of the proposed deal.

At a meeting with shareholders earlier this month, however, he suggested that negotiations had again become more constructive.

There has been significant unrest among Premier League clubs over the cost of the subsidy to the EFL, as well as the lack of certainty about the regulator’s powers and other financial reforms being driven forward by the Premier League.

Brentford is far from the only top-flight club exploring a partial or outright sale.

Rothschild is also advising on the potential disposal of a roughly-10% stake in West Ham United, while Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s purchase of almost 30% of Manchester United has just received Premier League approval.

Chelsea was sold last year to a consortium of US investors, while AFC Bournemouth also recently changed hands.

A spokesman for Brentford declined to comment on Rothschild’s appointment or its potential valuation, but reiterated a statement issued to Bloomberg News in December, which said:

“Given the recent rise and growth of our club and the changing shareholder landscape within the Premier League, it’s no surprise that there has been interest in investment opportunities at Brentford FC.

“While Matthew Benham’s commitment to the club remains as strong as it ever was, it is only natural, and perhaps even essential, for us to carefully explore what new investment could potentially mean for the future of Brentford FC.

“We must not stand still and we remain absolutely determined to safeguard the long term future of Brentford FC and to remain competitive in the world’s most challenging and successful league.”

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