Major New Imps Investment Announced – Analysis

Credit Graham Burrell

Major investment has been announced today, with a US-based family joining Lincoln City in our quest for promotion.

The club’s official statement says:

“The Harvey Jabara family are to join the existing group of shareholders in Lincoln City Holdings which owns 75% of Lincoln City Football Club. The investment will be headed up by Phoenix, Arizona resident Harvey Jabara, an Investment Executive by trade but also a keen sports fan. Harvey is the Managing Member of Olive Management LLC, a family office investment firm, and minority member of the consortium which owns the Major League Baseball team San Diego Padres. He will be joined by his wife Missy and two sons Jaxon and Jensen in HJ-LCFC Holdings LLC.

“As part of this development, Lincoln City can also announce that Landon Donovan, former USA international and current Vice-President of Soccer Operations/ Manager for USL Championship side San Diego Loyal, will join the Imps as a Strategic Advisor, working with the Board, Chief Executive Liam Scully and Director of Football Jez George to enhance the Clubs network and relationships, particularly within North America.

“HJ-LCFC Holdings LLC will initially take a 9% stake in Lincoln City Holdings. At this current stage, Harvey will not be joining the board of directors but retains a right to do so at a later date.

“Chairman Clive Nates said, “We are delighted to welcome Harvey, Landon and the Jabara family to Lincoln City Football Club. We are continually on the lookout for like-minded people to join our current group of investors to assist with the ongoing development of the Club financially, and also importantly, contribute their knowledge and acumen”.

“We have been talking to Harvey and Landon for some time now, but right from the initial meetings, it was clear to see we were aligned in our vision and values for the Club. Landon has for some time been assisting his close family friend Harvey on finding the right club to partner. It is great for all that we can also benefit from Landon and his vast experience.”

Harvey Jabara

I have had the pleasure of watching the press conference that took place earlier this week, with both Harvey and Landon, and picked up on a few salient points. The mainstream news will report the facts, things such as why the Jabara family chose Lincoln City or what motivates them. I shall leave that to those who asked questions at the press conference – what I am interested in is what they seemed like as people.

Let’s be honest, American investment isn’t the most popular in the UK right now thanks to the proposed European Super League, and for some supporters, I guess there might be concerns. In terms of the input our new investors have, they have been very definite about not having time to commit to the board right now and not wanting to impact the club adversely. At one point, Harvey was asked if he’d spoken to Michael Appleton, to which he replied he hadn’t as he didn’t want to take away from our manager’s time. I liked that, a lot. Here is a man who understands the club, at least that was the suggestion.

Several things grabbed me about the interview that I found pleasing. You will read, doubtless, that Harvey and the Jabara family have a stake in the San Diego Padres, a Major League Baseball team. That was put to him in one question and he played down his role, stating clearly he was a minor investor and trying to politely request that his involvement was played down as much as possible. There was no ego here, whatever his stake in the club he didn’t want to overplay it and come across as something he feels he is not in our press. I respected his eagerness to play that down, not wanting to play billy-big-boy with the press. Remember, this was a closed press conference with a select group of people (mind you Sky Sports and the Athletic joined respected local outlets such as Radio Lincolnshire, Look North, The Linc, etc, so it is big news), he could easily have let the question slip by and played up to the ‘part-owner of an MLB team’ persona.

Landon Donovan – By Regular Daddy – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

I also respected his honesty throughout the interview. He admitted he didn’t know where Lincoln was when our ‘deck’ (due diligence paperwork) passed across his desk. There was no false pretence of already knowing who we were. It might have been a stretch to push that rhetoric, but he has visited the UK with his wife Missy and family, and he could easily have pretended to know where the city was. It might have seemed small, but I got the impression that with Harvey, what you see is what you get, in much the same way as Clive.

There will be plenty of fan-friendly soundbites available in the media this week, discussions about how good our people were, how they wanted to invest in a club on the up, not get involved with a ‘fixer-upper’. Both Harvey and Landon Donovan have been watching Lincoln regularly, and their stories about getting up at 7.30am to watch games and having a weekend ruined are certainly the sort of thing fans love to read. He does seem a genuine chap, a sports fan with a desire to become involved in English football. Finally, on Harvey at least, I liked how he constantly referred to the game as ‘football’, not ‘soccer’. I write a lot about MLS for various clients and when I talk about football in the US I instinctively call it soccer now (never here, never). That sort of cultural awareness, to refer to our game as football throughout the call (he slipped once, when discussing his son who plays) shows an attention to detail in my eyes, a keen desire to understand the culture of the English game and to adapt accordingly. It might have been a small thing, but it spoke volumes to me about the motivation behind their investment.

San Diego Loyal Home Ground – By Gateman1997 – I took this photo at a Xolos game, CC0,

I mentioned Landon Donovan there, what of his involvement? For those who do not know, Landon is something of a hero in the United States, the best player to ever appear for their national side. He holds the record for the most goals scored for his country, 57, along with Clint Dempsey, and he is the second-most capped player for the US. He played for Bayern Munich, Everton and Leverkusen, but primarily for LA Galaxy, and he is currently the manager of San Diego Loyal in the USL Championship. Where does he fit in?

He is a close friend of the Jabara family, having helped Harkey’s son Jensen with his career after meeting at a Padres game. He has helped find a club for the family to invest in, and has taken the Imps on as a club he follows closely. Of course, having a big name joining as a Strategic Advisor is interesting, and his name is significant enough in world football to make this big news, but he is only going to get involved when asked. he made it very clear there is nothing he can add to a team doing so well, especially as he is a manager of a club in the States. He has helped facilitate the move and I would imagine will look to expand the Imps’ reach in North America, be it with talented players or growing our fanbase over there. Commercially, to get a foothold in the US would be great for the Imps and having perhaps their greatest ever player pushing our brand can only help. Those fearing Michael might be impeded can rest easy, Landon made it very clear how highly he rates our boss. He did joke that anything the two clubs can do together would be explored, and it wouldn’t surprise me entirely if one or two of our younger players got six months playing for San Diego.

No fear for Michael at all – Credit Graham Burrell

One aspect of Landon’s career that might not get much coverage in the mainstream media is his approach to mental health within the game. He’s been very open about his own mental health in the past, and is well-known for advocating better mental health care within the game. I like what I have seen about Landon Donovan the person, and his response in the press conference did not come from a highly-decorated international footballer, but a humble man who has found a football club that aligns with his, and the Jabara family’s values.

In terms of value of the monetary kind, Harvey stated that the investment was in the ‘high six figures’ and represented 9% of the holding company. That was the only question that didn’t elicit a lengthy response, and that indicated to me that Harvey and Clive are not dissimilar. I’ve always respected Clive for how candid he is about sensitive issues – he will tell you as much as he can about anything and everything, unless it is sensitive, then you get what you need and that is that. It means you know there is transparency around issues and if you’re not told something, there is a good reason. There was no reason for Harvey to put actual figures on it, drawing headlines or comment, rather just a guide to the size of their current commitment. I say ‘current’, because he did confirm this was a long-term plan with the aim of furthering the football club.