Athletics

Did Beane's Liverpool admiration offer hint he'd leave A's?

Athletics

Billy Beane has become synonymous with the A's over three decades in Oakland's front office, so Monday's report in The Wall Street Journal that Beane could leave for a new venture undoubtedly sent shockwaves throughout baseball.

The aforementioned venture perhaps shouldn't be much of a surprise, considering comments Beane made this summer.

The Journal reported Monday that Beane will leave the A's if RedBall Acquisition Corp, the special purpose acquisition company that Beane is a co-chair of, completes a merger with Fenway Sports Group. A "personal familiar with the matter" told the Journal that FSG's ownership of the Boston Red Sox would represent a conflict of interest that MLB wouldn't allow, as Beane holds a small ownership in the A's in addition to serving as executive vice president of baseball operations. 

But FSG also owns reigning Premier League winners Liverpool, and the conglomerate's ties and interest European soccer reportedly are what appeals to Beane most. Beane spoke glowingly of FSG's ownership of the English giants in a July interview with the Liverpool Echo's "Blood Red" podcast, showing his admiration of the club from afar.

"When (FSG principal owner) John Henry and (chairman) Tom Werner, who are longtime friends, when they bought Liverpool and (former director of professional football) Damien (Comolli) was there, it was really easy to root for Liverpool," Beane said on the podcast. "And it's easy now, mainly because, again, my association with John and Tom, and just the way they do their business. First of all, it's an amazingly well-run football team, a fun team to watch. Great manager, and (they) just sort of incorporated everything you'd want in a successful sports club, so they're easy to root for."

 

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Comolli was one of the first people working in global soccer who Beane got to know, back when the French executive was Tottenham Hotspur's director of football operations. Beane recommended Comolli to Henry, who bought the Red Sox alongside Werner in 2002, when FSG purchased Liverpool in 2010.

Henry tried to hire Beane as general manager of the Red Sox eight years prior, but Beane remained with the A's and even picked up a small ownership stake in the franchise. Beane's responsibilities in Oakland have grown since he declined to go to Boston, and he earned a promotion to become the A's executive vice president of baseball operations in 2015. So, too, has his interest in soccer.

Beane was part of a consortium that purchased second-division English club Barnsley in 2017, and the 58-year-old purchased a 5 percent stake in Dutch club AZ Alkmaar last month. Although Beane's admiration of Liverpool is clear, his role with FSG could be in acquiring other clubs. The Journal noted that going public following a successful merger could enable FSG to buy other clubs around the world, and City Football Group, owners of Manchester City and numerous other clubs across the globe, seemingly offers a model.

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Could Beane actually run Liverpool itself? Beane laughed off the possibility in his July interview.

"No. It's flattering that you ask, but we are friends," Beane told host Matt Addison. "They know I follow the club and they know I'm a huge fan, but no, they've got more-than-capable people.

"Obviously, I believe it's [Liverpool sporting director] Mike Edwards who does most of the stuff, and they've got not only a brilliant manager but a brilliant face of the club in Jurgen Klopp, so there is no need for any services of mine over there. They are perfectly fine without me."

Whether or not Liverpool needs Beane's services, they might be getting them sooner rather than later.