Fidelity’s Foley nears deal to buy Premier League soccer team

The deal-maker already owns an NHL team in Las Vegas.

  • By Mark Basch
  • | 12:10 a.m. September 29, 2022
  • | 5 Free Articles Remaining!
AFC Bournemouth plays its soccer matches in Vitality Stadium, previously called Dean Court, with a capacity of 11,379 spectators. Bournemouth is about 100 miles southwest of London.
AFC Bournemouth plays its soccer matches in Vitality Stadium, previously called Dean Court, with a capacity of 11,379 spectators. Bournemouth is about 100 miles southwest of London.
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Fidelity National Financial Inc. Chairman Bill Foley earned a reputation as a deal-maker over four decades running the Jacksonville-based title insurance company, buying and selling numerous nontitle businesses.

In the last few years, Foley has turned his deal-making attention to sports and after getting a National Hockey League expansion franchise six years ago, he appears close to buying an English Premier League soccer team.

Several news reports from the United Kingdom in the last two weeks said Foley is in advanced negotiations to buy AFC Bournemouth, a team located in the south coastal region of England.

Fidelity National Financial Inc. Chairman Bill Foley
Fidelity National Financial Inc. Chairman Bill Foley

A Sept. 16 report in The Guardian said “he is understood to be confident of completing a deal.”

Foley’s interest in soccer is not a surprise, after he announced in June he was investing in Eagle Football Holdings, a U.S. firm targeting global soccer teams.

That investment raises an issue that will need to be addressed in his pursuit of Bournemouth, because Eagle is run by “fellow American football nut” John Textor, according to a report in The Sun.

Textor is a major investor in another Premier League team, Crystal Palace.

“There will need to be a deep dive by the Premier League on the links between Foley and Textor as, under their rules, the latter cannot have an interest in two PL clubs,” The Sun report said.

Foley would join a long list of U.S. investors in British soccer teams, including Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, who bought Fulham F.C. in 2013. It’s one of nine British teams owned all or in part by U.S. investors, according to The Guardian.

Fulham, founded in 1879, is London’s oldest professional soccer club.

If this creates a rivalry between the two billionaires, Khan has the edge because his Fulham team was sixth and Bournemouth was 12th in the league standings as of Sept. 26.

Bournemouth, founded in 1899, is owned by a Russian-born businessman named Maxim Demin who has become a British citizen. 

Another Premier League team, Chelsea F.C., was owned by Russian businessman Roman Abramovich. But he was forced to sell his team after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.

Demin, as a British citizen, was not subject to government sanctions over the Ukraine invasion. He put Bournemouth up for sale voluntarily.

Foley relocated from Jacksonville to Las Vegas when he was awarded the Vegas Golden Knights expansion team in 2016.

He still maintains close ties to several Jacksonville-based companies. Although he does not hold an executive office with any of them, he is board chairman of Dun & Bradstreet Holdings Inc. and chairman emeritus of Black Knight Inc., in addition to his role as chairman of Fidelity.

Shareholders approve Black Knight buyout

Shareholders of Black Knight overwhelmingly approved a buyout of the Jacksonville-based mortgage technology company at a virtual special meeting Sept. 21.

Intercontinental Exchange Inc. agreed in May to buy Black Knight.

According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, 130.2 million Black Knight shares were voted in favor of the deal and only 48,711 shares were opposed.

The deal still has a long way to go before completion.

ICE is best known as operator of the New York Stock Exchange but its other financial technology operations include a mortgage technology business that controls about 45% of the mortgage loan origination software market.

Black Knight, which was spun off from Fidelity, is the dominant company in processing existing mortgage loans, handling about two-thirds of all U.S. mortgage loans. It also has a smaller mortgage loan origination technology business.

Analysts have said the combination of the two companies’ mortgage technology operations is likely to raise antitrust concerns by regulatory agencies, and they expect a lengthy review before the deal gets government approval.

The deal is targeted for completion in the first half of 2023. 

The deal was valued at $85 a share when it was announced in May, based on the agreement that calls for ICE to pay $68 plus 0.144 times the average price of ICE stock.

ICE’s stock has fallen a bit since the agreement but based on its closing price of $94.85 the day before the Black Knight stockholders meeting, the deal was still worth $81.66 per Black Knight share.

However, Black Knight’s stock has remained in the mid-$60s recently, indicating concerns among investors about the buyout being completed on its current terms.

Dream Finders moving to NYSE

With the success of its initial public offering a distant memory, Dream Finders Homes Inc. announced a move it hopes will drum up investor interest again.

The Jacksonville-based homebuilding company said it is transferring its stock listing from the Nasdaq Global Select Market to the New York Stock Exchange, effective Oct. 10.

“As we continue to evolve as a public company, and after careful consideration, we decided to list on the NYSE as the preferred exchange for our industry,” CEO Patrick Zalupski said in a Sept. 22 news release.

“We believe we are well positioned to leverage the advantages and unique offerings of the NYSE platform, ultimately delivering long-term value for our shareholders,” he said.

Dream Finders has been trading on Nasdaq since its January 2021 IPO.

The stock doubled its $13 IPO price in its first few weeks of trading and reached a high of $36.60 in June 2021.

But with the market tumbling and rising interest rates affecting the outlook for homebuilders, those gains are long gone.

The stock has been trading below the IPO price for much of the third quarter and has been near $10 recently.

Dream Finders isn’t alone.

A Sept. 26 Wall Street Journal report said recently public companies are doing worse than the overall depressed stock market.

Citing data from Dealogic, it said 87% of companies that went public last year are trading below their IPO price and are down an average of 49% this year.

However, the two other Northeast Florida companies that completed IPOs last year are trading higher.

Ponte Vedra-based Treace Medical Concepts Inc. rose steadily in the third quarter and has been trading in the low $20s recently.

The company developing and marketing processes for bunion surgery went public at $17 a share in April 2021.

Security products company Cadre Holdings Inc. has been trading in the upper $20s, doubling the Jacksonville-based company’s $13 IPO price in November.

The one other Jacksonville-based company to go public last year, space technology company Redwire Corp., has been trading much lower than its initial price.

Redwire went public by merging with a blank check company in September 2021. The stock was trading at $10.50 when the merger was completed but has been below $3 recently.

Lennar sees slower homebuilding in Jacksonville

Dream Finders has not been holding quarterly conference calls to discuss its financial outlook, but during its Sept. 22 conference call, Miami-based Lennar Corp. executives discussed the difficult homebuilding conditions in Jacksonville and other markets.

“While we continue to have some strong markets, in our more challenging areas, we’ve had to adjust prices and increase incentives to regain sales momentum,” said co-CEO Rick Beckwitt.

“Our sales strategy has been to find the market clearing price for each of our homes on a community-by-community basis as quickly as possible and price our homes accordingly,” he said.

Beckwitt cited Jacksonville as one of 22 markets “where we have made more significant adjustments to regain sales momentum.”

Traffic has slowed in those markets and cancellations have picked up, he said.

“While inventory is limited in each of these markets, we’ve had to offer more aggressive financing programs, base price reductions and/or increased incentives to regain sales momentum,” he said.

“Size of the adjustments has varied on a community-by-community basis and often been limited to specific homes in each community each week. In some cases, to avoid cancellations, we have adjusted pricing on our homes in backlog.”

Beckwitt said Lennar’s approach is helping it increase market share.

Even with the adjustments, the average sales price of homes rose 15% and home deliveries rose 13% in the third quarter ended Aug. 31. As a result, Lennar’s home sales revenue rose 30% to $8.4 billion.

Another national homebuilder active in the Jacksonville market, Los Angeles-based KB Home, reported Sept. 21 that revenue rose 26% in the quarter to $1.84 billion.

Patriot Rail buying Louisiana railroad company

Patriot Rail Co. announced Sept. 26 it agreed to buy Delta Southern Railroad Inc., which operates two short line railroads in Louisiana.

The deal will expand Jacksonville-based Patriot’s short line operations to 32 railroads.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Private equity firm invests in Humic Growth Solutions

A New York private equity firm that says it specializes in sustainable food chain investing said Sept. 20 it made a strategic investment in Jacksonville-based Humic Growth Solutions.

Paine Schwartz Partners said this is its second investment in Humic Growth Solutions but did not disclose terms of the deal.

Humic Growth Solutions produces humic and fulvic acid products across six manufacturing locations, Paine Schwartz said.

The company’s website says its headquarters at 709 Eastport Road in North Jacksonville serves as its corporate office and primary distribution point for dry soluble powder and granule products.

Krystal Klean acquires Belet’s Painting

Jacksonville-based building care company Krystal Klean said Sept. 20 it acquired Belet’s Painting and Maintenance Inc., a 27-year-old company that provides commercial and residential painting services in the Jacksonville area.

Krystal Klean is a subsidiary of Fairfield, New Jersey-based Fleetwash, which offers painting, pressure washing, sealing and coating, window cleaning and waterproofing services in the Southeastern U.S.

Terms of the deal were not announced.




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