Michael Eisner’s Tornante Co. is in talks to purchase English soccer club Portsmouth FC.
The former Walt Disney Co. chief executive entered into a 70-day exclusivity agreement with the club last week, Portsmouth said in a statement. The period will allow for uninterrupted discussion and negotiation for a possible sale.
“Exciting times,” Eisner said on Twitter in reply to Portsmouth’s tweeted press release. “Looking forward to coming over and meeting you all. Good luck against Newport County on Saturday!!”
The deal would be Tornante’s first acquisition of a professional sports team since Eisner formed the privately held company in 2005.
Beverly Hills-based Tornante invests in media and entertainment companies and co-owns trading card company Topps Co. Inc., which has licensing deals with U.S. sports leagues and soccer’s English Premier League.
A spokesman from Tornante declined to comment last week.
Under Eisner’s leadership from 1984 to 2005, Disney grew revenue by vastly expanding its theme park and entertainment portfolios, acquiring the ABC television network and ESPN Inc, as well as launching pro hockey’s Anaheim Ducks, then known as the Mighty Ducks.
Eisner created Tornante after leaving Disney. Some of its media and tech investments include a $25 million infusion in San Diego-based internet TV service Veoh Networks Inc. and a $17.8 million funding round for on-demand service TaskRabbit, which helps users find people to run errands and do chores.
Tornante also launched Beverly Hills digital studio Vuguru, which produces animated Netflix series “BoJack Horseman,” in 2006.
Portsmouth is a horse of different color. The soccer club has struggled financially since 2008 and became the largest fan-owned football club in England when it entered bankruptcy protection in 2013. The largely fan-funded Pompey Supporters Trust was established that year to save the team, taking majority ownership.
Tornante and the club’s co-owners will have 70 days to review each other’s business and financial information as well as negotiate terms and offers, the club said.
“The board and Mr. Eisner will look to negotiate the terms of what would effectively be the best and final offer … at which point we will advise all shareholders on the terms of the offer. Shareholders will then be asked by the club and the (Pompey Supporters Trust) to vote to either accept or reject the offer,” the club said.
If Eisner acquires Portsmouth, he will join a growing group of American business executives investing in soccer clubs domestically and abroad. Among them is Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who controls 67 percent of Arsenal FC, a London soccer club in England’s Premier League.
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