Bordeaux

Joseph DaGrosa
Photo by Romain Perrocheau/AFP/Getty Images

American investor DaGrosa eyes Premier League club

Leave a comment

American investor Joseph DaGrosa is well-positioned for his next investment in football, and he’s thinking very big.

DaGrosa exited Ligue 1 outfit Bordeaux and says he passed on buying Newcastle in recent months, also making a pair of big real estate moves just before the pandemic hit.

Had he purchased Newcastle or stayed with Bordeaux, he’d be amongst the many European club owners weathering a terrible climate while waiting out a pandemic.

Instead, DaGrosa sees an opportunity to build around a massive club in the Premier League or La Liga. He’s made his money in turning around companies, and believes that wisdom can be applied here on a broad scale.

“In this environment, given what’s going on with the coronavirus pandemic, we believe there’s an opportunity to recreate City Football Group at a fraction of the cost,” DaGrosa told ProSoccerTalk this week. “Club valuations are already coming down. In many cases, clubs are going to be effectively taken over by their lenders. There’s going to be some great opportunities in the next 12 months, and great opportunities to get world-class players at a fraction of the cost. This is the time to capitalize it.”

Here’s how it would work for his project, which he’s calling Kapital Football Group, “a new soccer platform holding company, to acquire controlling and influential minority stakes in world-class football clubs and academies at deep valuation discounts.”

DaGrosa aims to buy “an anchor club, most likely in the Premier League,” and then invest in three to five satellite clubs in Europe and South America. He’d also invest in nine academies, three in Asia, three in Africa, and three between North and South America. He didn’t rule out investing in MLS if the valuation proves fruitful, but DaGrosa is also “taking a real hard look” at USL clubs.

“If we can put that together we’ll have a formidable group that can rival City Football Group,” he said.

The CEO and co-founder of GACP Sports, DaGrosa starting eyeballing clubs, including Spanish outfit Getafe a couple of years ago. That didn’t work out during the due diligence stage, which led him to Bordeaux.

He calls running the Ligue 1 club “a fantastic learning experience for the world of European football.”

“Today we have a better appreciation for the importance of legacy of the clubs as well as the importance of the fans contributing to that success,” he said. “And thanks to that experience, we now look for those same qualities in the clubs we are looking to acquire next.”

A rumored 2019 deal to buy Newcastle didn’t work out, but DaGrosa is still laser-focused on making his impact on the global game.

What kind of club is he eyeing? Is it strictly about the best bang for his buck, or does the appeal and history of the club carry significant weight?

“Legacy is a big part out of it,” he said. “I’m even more sensitive today given our experience at Bordeaux. We always understood the legacy and passion of the fans, but all clubs have a special place in the history of the cities and communities in which they are located. In some cases, they are the lifeblood. In the U.S. you think of the Green Bay Packers. I have a much better appreciation for legacy in the history of the clubs we are looking to require, particularly in the Premier League. It’s less important in the U.S. where you don’t have multi-generational ties to one club, but it’s still important.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

There’s keen interest in the United States, as DaGrosa stresses what many investors have noted: The 2026 World Cup is going to drive interest in the potential of this country both here and abroad.

We asked DaGrosa why, given that, he wouldn’t dive into Major League Soccer? He’s not ruling it out, but expressed concerns with the franchise fees and revenues in the short-term. Building a club here takes a lot more investment, risk, and patience than, say, a century-old club that holds sway in its region.

“You can build a club (in MLS) that’s going to cost 500 or 600 million bucks,” he said. “At the end of the day, you’re paying 10 times revenues. Or you can buy a club like Bordeaux established in 1881 that has a remarkable history, pedigree, and is a brand known around the world, for 1.6 times revenue. When you look at the metrics it’s hard, not impossible to make a compelling case for MLS over the short-term. If you have a lot of staying power, there’s money to be made but clubs in general are going to trade as a function of their broadcasting rights revenue, and we’re just not seeing that in the U.S. at a rate required to justify the valuation.”

DaGrosa believes in the American soccer market and says the system is on the verge of becoming an elite talent exporter, comparing its potential to that of a current font further south.

“Other markets are going to open up,” he said. “Most of the great clubs in Brazil were insolvent before the effects of the coronavirus. There’s a movement to privatize clubs and we feel there’s going to be an opportunity to get the really top names in Brazil. Those satellite clubs are designed to be good investments in their own right but the name of the game is to secure world class players and Brazil is one of those markets that can immediately supply world class players. The U.S. is a market that can do that in five to seven years.”

DaGrosa’s interest in the Premier League is deep-seated, and has only grown given his expectations for how well the league is equipped to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The PL will emerge as the strongest league and there may be some good deals to be had,” he said. “There are going to be financially distressed owners throughout football globally. There will be some lenders that are going to be scared to death who’d love to create a win-win with someone with capital. If the market is down 20-30 percent, segments of the public market that will be down 30-40 percent, football could be down 50-75 percent. It’s a great time to buy with dry powder so after the acquisitions you can build up a world-class team at a fraction of what it would otherwise cost. In our discussion with investors, we can essentially buy today and invest 25-40 cents on the dollar relative to what we would’ve paid six months ago.”

That’s when he was in “mid-to-late stage discussions” with Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley and his partners about the northeast outfit.

DaGrosa insists that Ashley was “first-class” in negotiations despite many reports about his combustible nature.

“It’s unfortunate in one respect that the deal didn’t go forward,” he said. “With a guy like Mike Ashley you might get punched in the face but you’ll never get knifed in the back. At the time it was disappointing the deal didn’t go forward. It was on our side that a major backer pulled out at the last minute but hindsight is 20-20. Better to be lucky than smart because we probably dodged a short-term bullet.”

Now that twist of fate and timing may launch a wildly ambitious project in the next 12 months.

American group GACP unlikely to purchase Newcastle

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley continues to keep the club in the shop window over a potential sale, but it looks as though one American ownership group won’t be able to seal the deal, despite some recent media speculation.

General American Capital Partners CEO and Chairman Joseph DaGrosa confirmed in an interview with Pro Soccer Talk that despite positive talks between his group and Newcastle, a deal to purchase the Premier League club was looking unlikely as of press time. Although DaGrosa didn’t mention a specific reason, it’s likely that Ashley’s high valuation, or a lack of capital partners to help leverage the sale, have meant Ashley will continue to be looking for a new steward for the club.

“I can certainly confirm interest,” DaGrosa said in a phone interview. “I will confirm that I’ve had conversations with Mike Ashley’s top representative. I would describe those conversations as very positive. I would say Mike Ashley and his team are a lot easier and a lot friendlier and business savvy than anyone gives them credit for. We’re still talking. I’m not sure we’re going to reach an agreement, but that’s certainly not because of either side’s intractability or unwillingness to move forward.”

The news is a bit of a blow to Newcastle fans, who again were hoping that this holiday season would bring them relief from the Ashley ownership group. Ironically, Newcastle is having its best season in years, and currently sits in 9th place in the table with 25 points from 18 matches.

It was thought that recent events could have sped up a purchase for Newcastle from GACP Sports. On December 16, Bordeaux announced that GACP Sports had sold its stake in the club from King Street Capital Management, just 18 months after helping lead the takeover of the Ligue 1 club. According to DaGrosa, the departure was over a difference in management styles between King Street and his group.

“As we publicly announced, it was really based on irreconcilable differences with the management and operations of the club,” DaGrosa said. “We thought it was in the best interest of the club and the fans to part ways. Both sides, GACP and King Street recognized that having that much uncertainty as to how the club was going to be run going forward wasn’t in anyone’s interest, so we decided that we would do our best to part ways amicably, which we’ve done, and I certainly wish the team nothing but success going forward.”

DaGrosa lauded his business partner Hugo Varela’s work behind the scenes, making hires at coach and academy levels to turn around Bordeaux’s fortunes this season. After finishing 14th last year, Bordeaux is currently in the top ten. The on-field success would have been enticing to Newcastle fans who are desperate for some serious investment in the playing squad and coaching staff.

Even with GACP Sports gone from Bordeaux and unlikely to take over Newcastle, DaGrosa hinted they’ll be back in soccer ownership sooner rather than later.

“In terms of our other plans, we’ve maintained all along we want to be players in sports, particularly soccer, and we’re looking not only in Europe but in South America right now,” DaGrosa said. “Negotiations are going on right now with a couple of clubs, and I think the best is yet to come for GACP Sports.”

What Bordeaux sale means for Newcastle

Leave a comment

An American owner linked with a takeover at Newcastle United now suddenly has time, and plenty of cash available.

Bordeaux announced that majority owner King Street Capital Management had bought out the stake of American Joe DaGrosa and his group, General American Capital Partners.  DaGrosa had been the president of Bordeaux since helping purchase the club in 2018 through October 2019, but after weeks of rumors for a potential Newcastle purchase, DaGrosa has been bought out. Frederic Longuepee, who was elected club president in October, was named President and CEO by King Street Capital Management on Monday.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

According to reports in France, there were tensions between King Street and DaGrosa on how much the club would spend to improve the squad, which is currently skewed very young and as such, is in seventh place in Ligue 1, outside the European places.

On the plus side, now there should be plenty of time, and rumors, of conversations between DaGrosa and Peter Kenyon, who is reportedly leading negotiations between Newcastle owner Mike Ashley and potential buyers.

Of course, Newcastle has been reportedly on the verge of gaining new ownership around this time in each of the last few years, only for the deals to fall through at the last minute. It’s safe to say that this is one to watch, but it’s no guarantee.

Should DaGrosa purchase Newcastle, he’d be the latest American to get into English soccer ownership. Americans currently have majority ownership of Liverpool, Manchester United, and Arsenal in the Premier League.

An Englishman in Bordeaux

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Very few have traveled the path from south London to Manchester, then Sunderland and then the Southwest of France. Then again, few people are Josh Maja.

While Jadon Sancho and Keiran Trippier may garner most of the media attention for English players plying their trade off the British Isle, one young Englishman is poised for a breakout year in Ligue 1. Maja, who joined Bordeaux during the January transfer window in 2019, is finally healthy after a knee injury cut short his first season in France, and he’s ready to make a big impact as part of a young squad.

 [ MORE: Ligue 1 score, schedule ]

The 20-year-old striker has an impressive story, overcoming the odds to not just become a professional, but also to make it to the top division in France. Maja began his career playing for St. Andrews Youth Club, its headquarters just steps away from Westminster Abbey.

He also spent time as a youngster with Crystal Palace and then Fulham, but left the club after three-and-a-half years for personal reasons. He then returned to St. Andrews, all the while going for trials across the country, trying to latch on with a team. While training with Manchester City and featuring in a friendly match against Sunderland, his fortunes suddenly changed. Sunderland liked what it saw, brought him to the northeast of England, and gave him a chance.

After working his way up the ranks from the Under-18s through the Under-23s and reserves, it was then-Sunderland manager David Moyes who gave Maja his first team debut in 2016. After working on his game for another season, Maja had a breakout year with Sunderland down in League One at the start of the 2018-2019 season.

Maja scored in Sunderland’s season opener, a 2-1 win over Charlton, and then went on to score 15 league goals in the first five months of the season, scoring with both feet and his head, and making it look easy at times.

Amazingly, Maja wasn’t even supposed to start that first game of the season. Sunderland had just signed experienced forward Charlie Wyke. But an injury to Wyke in the buildup to the game put Maja in, and he didn’t look back.

“I probably say everything was clicking,” Maja said in an interview with Pro Soccer Talk. “(Wyke) got injured in training so I had to start that game, and then I scored in the first game. From there, my confidence just went up. I think just the momentum and the confidence I had going into games was pushing me on to be successful that season.”

Suddenly, there was interest from clubs in the Championship, Premier League, and abroad. For a player who had trained at Manchester City, Fulham, and Crystal Palace, this could have been a big moment for him to make a move to a bigger club. But Maja said he didn’t see it that way.

“I just felt it was a good time for me to go abroad,” Maja said. “I didn’t feel like I was ready to take the step into the Premier League. I think signing for a PL team wouldn’t have been the right decision for my development.

“Obviously for me developing is playing games and I felt as if going abroad was going to enhance my development and get more game time. I think it was the right decision and I hope this season I can push on.”

By late January, it was done. Maja’s agent, Emeka Obasi helped Maja move from Sunderland to Ligue 1’s Bordeaux on an undisclosed fee, with Maja signing a four-and-a-half year contract. Obasi has been influential in seeing some of England’s top young talents move abroad, including Jadon Sancho’s move to Borussia Dortmund, Ademola Lookman’s move to RB Leipzig and Reiss Nelson’s loan to Hoffenheim last season.

“There was interest before the season, I knew there was a little bit there,” Maja said. “When I was scoring goals as the season was going on, the attention from them grew. My agent was the one, just because he’s got a good relationship with a lot of teams, he basically gave me confidence to listen to clubs abroad, and Bordeaux showed the biggest interest. That’s the main reason I took the opportunity to come here.”

After joining Bordeaux, Maja quickly integrated into the young squad and played in seven matches, starting three and scoring one goal. However, a torn meniscus in his left knee shut down the rest of his season for good. Instead of spending the time injured back home in London, Maja said he remained in Bordeaux to rehab, and he was ready to go at the start of the season for coach Paulo Sousa.

Following a preseason with Bordeaux, in which Maja participated in EA Sports League 1 games in Washington D.C., Maja seems primed for a big season in France. He’s come off the bench in each of the first three league matches of the season, scoring in Bordeaux’s 1-1 draw with Montpellier. Bordeaux’s young team looks to improve from a 14th-place finish last season, in which the club only earned 41 points.

“He’s very young like a lot of players on our team, but he has a lot of experience,” Maja’s Bordeaux teammate Aurelien Tchouameni said. “He played a lot of games in League One in England so he’s a very good player, a very good striker. I think he will help the team this season.”

At just 20, there’s still time for Maja to continue to improve, grow, and potentially return to England as a finished product.

“It’s a possibility,” Maja said about playing in the Premier League in the future. “I am focusing on my work in France with Bordeaux, maybe if the timing is right and the right club comes in, I’d love to take that opportunity. Right now I want to be the best I can be here.”

Report: Koscielny agrees terms with Bordeaux

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In the blink of an eye, Laurent Koscielny has gone from one of Arsenal’s longest-serving players to potentially leaving the club this week.

[READ: Premier League season previews]

According to L’Equipe, Laurent Koscielny has agreed terms with Bordeaux, and is set to undergo a medical on Tuesday to determine if the transfer will go through. Koscielny is going into the last year of his contract at Arsenal, and he’s essentially walking out from  Arsenal during preseason.

Upset at not being offered a better new contract, the 33-year-old, who turns 34 in September, refused to go with Arsenal on its tour of the U.S. this summer.

Koscielny has been a key member of Arsenal’s squad since joining in 2010 from Lorient. He was a regular starter every year since then until April 2018, when he suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon. Since then, though he’s returned to the field, he has seemed to be a step slower than before, which is understandable.

Even so, it’s a huge blow to Arsenal. The Gunners have spent millions so far upgrading their squad in midfield and attacking areas, but defense is a huge question mark and the club hasn’t been successful signing a new player yet.

With the Premier League transfer window ending on Thursday, will Arsenal have time to sign a replacement? Or will Rob Holding and Calum Chambers he asked to take a huge jump in their careers and lead this team back to the Champions League.