After almost many years of Marcus Evans ownership, Ipswich Town are subject to a reported takeover attempt by an American consortium. But who is Brett Johnson, the man supposedly behind the US investment group looking to buy Ipswich Town?
Brett Johnson: Who Is the American Businessman Looking to Buy Ipswich Town?
US Investment Group Interested in Ending Marcus Evans Tenure at Ipswich Town
Ipswich Town are subject to rumours of a takeover by an American investment group, according to The Athletic.
The current owner, Marcus Evans, has owned the club ever since 2007 but reduced investment, rising debts and a lower football pyramid position means the businessman is reportedly close to a sale.
On March 3, Evans released a statement saying: “I have said for the last few years that, as new football investors with potentially greater investment pain thresholds than me appear on the scene, if I feel someone is in a better position than me to carry the Club forward with sustained investment, I will step aside.
“If I have concerns having had unique access to look behind the mask of interested parties, I won’t sell, end of.”
The Athletic, however, with their roots originally in the United States, claim that a US investment group, led by Brett Johnson, could complete the purchase soon.
Johnson, a former Brown University (History) and Harvard Business School graduate has an extensive portfolio of business experience.
He founded the real estate company Fortuitous Partners in November 2018. The company aims to “invest in professional sports anchored real estate development”.
The businessman’s other major interest is with Benevolent Capital – where he is CEO. They describe themselves as an “alternative investment firm” which is involved in helping to “build long-term value” for companies.
What Knowledge of Football Does Brett Johnson Have?
The majority of his past interests feature in manufacturing and investment. Johnson, a 51-year-old Chelsea supporter, has links to football having been associated with Arizona-based side Phoenix Rising.
Since first becoming involved with the US soccer team in 2015, they have gone on to win two Western Conference Championships (2018 and 2020) as well as a Regular Season Title in 2019. The American club is owned by Chelsea legend Didier Drogba whilst Johnson is co-chairman.
Frank Yallop, who made over 300 appearances for Ipswich Town, was appointed manager at Phoenix shortly after Johnson’s arrival.
Earlier this month a transfer of ownership for Phoenix Rising’s USL League One team, FC Tucson, to Benevolent Sports Tucson – a subsidiary of Johnson’s private equity firm Benevolent Capital.
Owain Evans, a journalist covering Phoenix Rising, said Mr Johnson’s involvement with the US team means it is “unrecognisable now to how it was”.
He told Last Word on Football: “In his first season at the helm, the club was known as Arizona United and had never qualified for the playoffs. They trained in a public park, using a nearby apartment as their changing room. They played games in a baseball stadium in front of crowds of less than 1500.
“Fast forward to now and you have a perennial title contender because the board has invested in the playing staff. Crowds have soared, with most games at Casino Arizona Field being sellouts and the average up over 6500.
“In that first year, you’d be forgiven for worrying that professional football in Phoenix was on the way out. Now, under the ownership group with Johnson, [Berke] Bakay and others, you have one of the biggest teams in the second tier.”
The club has ambitions of competing in the MLS in the near future with a new stadium and training facility in construction ahead of the new season.
Phoenix Rising also have a partnership with the Turkish side Galatasary as a result of Phoenix governor Berke Bakay’s Turkish background and support of the Super Lig team. Away from the US and Turkey, Mr Johnson is a director of Danish First Division team FC Helsingor.
In July 2020 the company Gamechanger 20 Ltd was registered on Companies House; Brett Johnson is one of four persons with significant control. Michael O’Leary, the former West Brom Chief Executive, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer are the others involved alongside Mr Johnson.
According to TWTD, Gamechanger 20 Ltd has made priority Land Registry searches relating to the purchase of Ipswich Town’s Playford Road training base.