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Apr 18, 2024

What Tottenham Hotspur need to learn about good investor relations

London soccer team looking for new investors

One of the minor inconveniences of traveling with the IR Magazine team for our events – we’ve just held our annual awards ceremonies for both the US and Canada in the past few weeks – is that I miss watching my soccer team on a few occasions.

I also missed the news that my beloved Spurs – that’s the London-based Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur, for any non-football fans reading – are entering the arena of fund-raising, after the club’s chairman Daniel Levy confirmed he had plans that required ‘a significant increase in [our] equity base’.

It marks one of those rare times when one’s work and personal life overlap beautifully. From the Toronto bar where I watched a recent underwhelming 1-1 draw with West Ham, I was thinking up plans to have Mr Levy appear as an IR expert at an upcoming event, or a hare-brained scheme to convince Spurs’ esteemed team captain Heung-Min Son to pick up an IR certification.

In reality, however, I realized that the good people of Tottenham Hotspur would have a lot more to learn from our readers than vice versa.

Tottenham are not bad performers: their revenues for the year ending June 2023 were up to £549.6 mn ($692 mn), increasing sharply from the £444 mn the year prior. Though some of that was down to player sales – among others, club legend Harry Kane departed for Bayern Munich for a reported £82 mn – the gleaming new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is largely the one to thank, a huge capex undertaking that is now spinning cash for the team every match day.

Levy is a shrewd businessman and has always had a knack for only ever saying exactly what he needs to the press. But dealing with public investors may be a different challenge for him and his colleagues at ENIC Group, Tottenham’s owner.

The threat of IR failure in the soccer arena have been easy to see at Manchester United, where an ongoing saga ended in a failed takeover by Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim but a successful one by UK businessman Sir Jim Ratcliffe, or across London at Chelsea, where Todd Boehly’s stewardship has been met with heavy criticism from fans.

Levy has also spoken previously about his desire to run the club ‘as if it is a public company’. ENIC, the investment vehicle through which the club is owned, has 30,000 shareholders owning 13.5 percent of the group. ‘I have a duty to consider anything that anyone may want to propose,’ Levy told Bloomberg a few years ago. ‘It’s not about me, it’s about what’s right for the club.’

Any more money coming into the club would hold Levy to do just that – and the fans would agree. Though we are a long-suffering bunch, one thing Spurs supporters agree on is that the financial stewardship of the club has been successful and will be of crucial importance. Tottenham Hotspur faced ruin as recently as the 1990s, so to be in a position where the likes of Sheikh Jassim, fellow Qatari Nasser Al-Khelaifi or even hip hop star Jay-Z are in contention to take on ownership of the club is pretty stunning.

Maintaining a good level of transparency will be key, as will paying attention to good governance practices: British billionaire Joe Lewis, the former ENIC owner whose family trust controls a majority share in Tottenham Hotspur, has recently pleaded guilty to insider trading in the US. That won’t go down well with prospective shareholders.

On the subject of passionate supporters, I’m delighted to see that IR Magazine has attracted more than 10,000 followers on LinkedIn. We’ll be sharing much more on the social media platform in the coming weeks so, if you don’t already, make sure you’re following us there to read all the latest – including details of the refreshed and revamped IR Voice podcast!

Laurie Havelock

Laurie has been part of the IR Magazine team for more than a decade, starting out as a reporter and research editor before becoming editor in 2023. He was previously acting business editor at the i newspaper and deputy business editor at The Daily...