Among Theo Epstein’s tasks with FSG: helping Liverpool replace Jurgen Klopp
Unrest has been brewing in Boston over the past several years in the direction of the Red Sox. The Pittsburgh Penguins are entering a rebuilding phase. Liverpool Football Club is in a state of turmoil due to the imminent departure of its successful and beloved coach, Jurgen Klopp.
Fenway Sports Group, the conglomerate that owns all those franchises, has entered a crucial period that is sure to define its future. From this standpoint, the timing seemed appropriate to bring in the man who once appeared on the cover of Fortune magazine as number one on its list of “The Fifty Greatest Leaders in the World.”
FSG announced on Friday that Theo Epstein will join the group as a senior advisor. According to Red Sox president and CEO Sam Kennedy, one of Epstein’s most pressing and high-profile assignments will be to consult as Liverpool hires a replacement for Klopp, who has overseen nearly a decade of stability and success before a summer that threatens to be one. Of massive turmoil.
In his new role, the former Red Sox general manager and now executive vice president will advise FSG owners John Henry, Tom Werner, Mike Gordon and Kennedy on the company’s operations across the portfolio, which recently added the PGA Tour to the mix. He will also consult on strategic growth and investment initiatives.
“Given the desire to win everywhere, we considered this to triple our commitment to winning,” Kennedy said. The athlete. “If our teams and clubs don’t win, there’s nothing to talk about. No one knows how to win better than Theo.
Epstein and Gordon have a long-standing relationship, according to a person familiar with the situation, dating back years. Epstein was still with the Red Sox in 2010 when FSG took over Liverpool, where Gordon has been a partner since 2001. Aside from working alongside Gordon in finding Liverpool’s replacement for Klopp, Epstein will have a high-level advisory role in the image endeavors. The big one. and major strategic initiatives of FSG.
According to Kennedy, Epstein will also serve as a “sounding board and executive coach” for Penguins GM Kyle Dubas and new Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow.
Epstein has strong ties to both. After Epstein led the Cubs to the 2016 World Series, the franchise was viewed as a progressive organization where executives from teams in other professional sports often checked in to compare notes and exchange ideas. One of those executives was Dubas, who was working with the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs when he befriended Cubs officials, including Epstein. In 2019, Epstein hired Breslow, a former Red Sox reliever, to his first front-office job with the Cubs, all before giving him a strong recommendation this fall for the Red Sox job.
Epstein, a Brooklyn, Mass., native who grew up with Kennedy, has been working in an advisory role for MLB, where he helped lead rule changes that sped up the game last season. But it wasn’t until a few months ago that Kennedy approached Epstein about joining FSG as a consultant.
“It took a while,” Kennedy said. “He began to get excited about building a new skill set as an ‘executive coach’ of sorts, involved in multiple sports and as an owner. He became excited about it. John, Tom and Mike were ecstatic at the thought of him.”
“He said to me, ‘This could be one of your worst ideas or one of your best ideas,'” Kennedy said of his conversation with Epstein. “I finally wore it.”
Epstein played football in high school and still plays in a weekend league in Connecticut near his home. He is also a fan of the English Premier League and, according to his friends, has followed Liverpool closely. As an executive, Epstein may not have a background in football. However, his knowledge of what it takes to lead an elite sporting team will likely be appreciated by FSG as they attempt to fill important vacancies at Anfield.
Klopp will step down from his position in May after nine years in office, a period that saw the German coach return Liverpool to the top of English and European football after a period of stagnation. Gordon led the search for a replacement and was informed by the club’s data analysts who were trying to match potential candidates to the team’s profile. Xabi Alonso, the former Liverpool midfielder who is now enjoying success with German club Bayer Leverkusen, is a front-runner.
Liverpool also need a new sporting director as a matter of urgency: their interim appointment, Jörg Schmadtke, has departed, and there are pressing issues to resolve, including new contracts for three of the club’s most important players, Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah. And Trent Alexander Arnold. They are all free agents in July 2025.
Epstein has problems on the other side of the Atlantic as well, starting with mounting anxiety and frustration in Boston. The Red Sox have come out of last place three times in four years and ownership recently announced they will likely take a payroll cut in 2024. Of course, if there is a turnaround, this wouldn’t be the first time Epstein has been involved.
When Henry, Werner and Larry Lucchino bought the Red Sox as their first joint investment in 2002, hiring the 28-year-old Epstein was perhaps their most important move. The first-time general manager became the architect of the franchise’s first World Series championship in 86 years, before adding another just three years later in 2007. Despite an ugly departure from the Red Sox in 2011, Epstein and principal owner John Henry are said to be repairing their relationship.
“There is no doubt that Theo left an indelible mark on our history that represents a transformative era,” Henry said in a statement announcing Epstein’s role. “Welcoming him as a member of our ownership group and into the role of senior advisor to the broader company brings with it a sense of completion.”
It is no exaggeration to say that without Epstein’s aggressive and judicious moves in those early years, FSG may not have grown to its current position as a multi-billion-dollar sports group. What better person to turn to than the person who helped them lay the foundation for future success?
“It made sense to add firepower to our operation,” Kennedy said.
(Photo at top: Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
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