Shy Henry has record to please Liverpool fans

DETROIT - John W Henry keeps a low profile but the owner of the Boston Red Sox baseball team has an attention-grabbing track record to warm the hearts of concerned Liverpool football fans.

His New England Sports Ventures (NESV) finally took control of Liverpool for 300 million pounds on Friday after the deal was held up by a legal challenge from the club's former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Fans can finally turn their thoughts to what changes the media-shy Henry and his group can bring to improve the fortunes of the Premier League team off to its worst start to a season in more than 50 years.

Henry, 61, largely limited his public utterances to the 140-character limit of Twitter while the ownership saga was ongoing and while he was more eloquent immediately after the deal he made clear he was a man of action rather than words.

"I'm proud and humbled," he told the media throng. "There was a lot of work to do but I can't tell you how happy I am.

"I let my actions speak. We are not going to say a lot. We are here to win, we have a tradition of winning. We have the second highest spending club in Major League Baseball and we will do what is necessary."


Born in Quincy, Illinois, Henry, who built his fortune as a futures trader, has loved baseball since childhood, crunching stats for his boyhood favourite St. Louis Cardinals because he could not wait for the Sunday paper, said John Damgard, president of the Futures Industry Association and a guest at Henry's wedding.

"His love of numbers came from his fascination with baseball," said Damgard, who believes Henry will turn Liverpool into the toast of English soccer within three years.

He may not relish talking to the media but Henry is not slow to interact with the fans.

"I love to listen to and interact with fans," Henry said in a rare comment in Red Sox's media guide. "Perhaps not every fan can identify with me but I think I can identify with most of them."

Henry held a minority stake in the New York Yankees and owned the Florida Marlins before leading a group that purchased the Red Sox in 2002 for a then league-record $700 million.

Two years later, the Sox won their first title in 86 years, breaking a storied curse fans said had haunted the team due to its sale of baseball great Babe Ruth to the rival Yankees after a World Series title in 1918. They also won the title in 2007.

That kind of success will carry across the Atlantic, Robert Reynolds, chief executive of Putnam Investments, said at an event in Boston to announce a sports sponsorship.

"The skill set you need to run a professional sports franchise, whether it's soccer... or baseball, is the same," he said.

Henry came by his skills early. After a stint trying to outsmart the Las Vegas casinos at the blackjack tables, he became interested in analysing futures markets when he inherited the family farm at age 26.

He developed his firm's trends-following algorithms and rode them to great success.

NESV not only owns the Red Sox, but its historic home field of Fenway Park, an 80 percent stake in a successful regional sports TV network, a 50 percent stake in NASCAR's Roush Fenway Racing team, a sales and marketing firm that serves other sports properties and more.

Forbes this year ranked the Red Sox and Roush Fenway as the second most valuable teams in their sports at $840 million and $238 million, respectively, while estimating the baseball team was the league's second most profitable.

A deal earlier this year by New York Times Co to sell a 1.2 percent stake in NESV for a reported $14 million set an enterprise value for the entire company at about $1.2 billion.


However, if NESV were sold in one piece it would likely draw bids of $1.6 billion to $1.7 billion, said one sports banker, who asked not to be identified.

Not everything Henry has touched has always turned to gold, however, as a lack of clear marketplace trends in recent years has led to weaker returns at his futures trading firm John W. Henry & Co in Boca Raton, Florida.

In fact, after estimating Henry's net worth at $1.1 billion in early 2009, Forbes did not rank him among the world's billionaires this year.

However, Henry's track record is still enviable as the firm's largest GlobalAnalytics fund, which invests in futures contracts on everything from the price of gold to corn, has gained an average of almost 12 percent a year since it opened in 1997.

Henry's longest-running fund, which concentrates on metals and financial contracts, has gained an average of 21 percent a year since its launch in 1984.

"To maintain a compound annual return of 20 percent a year over a 20-year time period is a very rare occurrence," said Sol Waksman, president of Barclay Hedge, which specialises in analysing returns of hedge, commodity and currency funds. "It's a notable achievement."