US-led consortium close to Ipswich takeover as Cook appointed manager

Nick Ames
·2-min read

Ipswich Town’s takeover is nearing completion, with a largely US-led consortium closing in on assuming control of the League One club.

The Guardian understands that the deal, which could see the current owner, Marcus Evans, receive up to £30m, is undergoing regulatory processes and should be finalised within weeks. Assuming no issues arise, Evans’ 13-year-spell running the Suffolk club will come to an end well before the end of the season.

It will complete a period of dramatic change at Ipswich, who parted company with Paul Lambert on Sunday night and have replaced him with Paul Cook on a contract to 2023. The appointment of Cook, who left Wigan in July, was overseen by Evans and the existing regime.

Related: Paul Lambert leaves post as Ipswich manager as takeover moves closer

Ipswich’s new owners will be a consortium whose capital is sourced from the US. Three of the group’s members – Berke Bakay, Brett Johnson and Mark Detmer – are co-owners of Phoenix Rising in the United Soccer League, which is in effect the country’s second-highest level.

In July 2020 the three men created a UK company named Gamechanger 20 Limited, whose nature of business is described as “operation of sports facilities”, along with the former Oxford United and West Brom director Mike O’Leary. They were joined in January by a new director, Edward Schwartz, who is thought to be an Ohio-based portfolio manager.

Johnson is the founder of Fortuitous Partners, a sports investment fund, as well as being founder and CEO of a private equity investment firm based in California. He is also a director of the US-owned Danish second-tier club, Helsingør. Bakay is Phoenix Rising’s club governor and runs a hedge fund, also in California. The group have not been available for comment.

Earlier on Monday the Ipswich general manager, Lee O’Neill, had reiterated the long standing line that Evans was “not actively looking to sell the club” and explained there “isn’t an offer on the table”. But the process is now in its latter stages and Ipswich will hope for a change of fortunes after an unhappy couple of decades.

Evans, who is expected to retain a 5% stake in the club and will in effect write off around £100m of debt owed to him, took over with high hopes of a quick promotion to the Premier League but Ipswich stagnated in the second tier instead. They were finally relegated in 2019 and sit eighth in this season’s League One, although their form improved in the final few matches of Lambert’s turbulent reign.