Dan Friedkin: the billionaire with his eye set on Everton

Dan Friedkin acquired his wealth through his family’s car and autoparts empire and now has his sights set on rescuing the troubled Merseyside football club. Will fans be happy?

Dan Friedkin Ryan Friedkin during match between AS Roma vs Shakhtar Donetsk
(Image credit: Getty Images)

“You might not recognise Dan Friedkin if you bumped into him,” observed the Houston Chronicle earlier this year. Although the billionaire businessman is “one of the wealthiest people” in the city (Forbes puts his worth at $6.4 billion), he keeps a relatively low profile. In Europe, on the other hand, his star is rising and rising – because of his love of the beautiful game. Having bought the Italian club AS Roma in 2020, Friedkin has now emerged as a potential white knight for Britain’s troubled Everton FC, says the Financial Times. Earlier this month he started talks to buy the heavily indebted club from its current owner, Farhad Moshiri, after another US suitor – the troubled Miami investment group 777 Partners – failed to complete its takeover. 

If Friedkin wins the club, fans can expect a dash of derring-do. Although his wealth derives from an unglamorous car and autoparts empire, he is also a Hollywood producer and “stunt pilot” with a passion for collecting vintage planes. When the director of Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan, was casting around for Spitfires to feature in the film, he discovered that Friedkin owned six of them – and went on to secure his services as the pilot of the aeroplane, ostensibly flown by actor Tom Hardy, that made a dramatic landing on Dunkirk beach. Friedkin later won an award for “best speciality stunt” for the feat. 

Born in 1965, Friedkin “comes from a long line of aviator businessmen”: his grandfather, Kenny – a former World War II combat pilot – founded Pacific Southwest Airlines in 1949, establishing it as a pioneer in low-cost air travel. Friedkin’s late father, Thomas, himself a stunt pilot, “extended the engineering passion into the world of automobiles”, says The Telegraph, establishing one of the first Toyota dealerships in America. Gulf States Toyota is still at the heart of the family business empire. But, since taking the reins from his father in 1995, Friedkin has extended its reach into Hollywood as the force behind film studios Imperative Entertainment and Neon. An impressive list of films includes the epic 2023 western Killers of the Flower Moon, directed by Martin Scorsese, and the 2019 Oscar-winner Parasite. The Friedkin Group also owns a portfolio of golf courses and luxury resorts globally, including a safari company in Tanzania. 

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Friedkin has combined his “colourful career” with an avowed dislike of the limelight, says The Telegraph. But he’s far from being a recluse. A father of four, he is described by colleagues as a “private person”. He is “very poised”, one told the FT. “Not the first to speak, but when he does he’s always adding value.” What will probably please Everton fans most, if he does buy the club, is that he “brings a similar passion to football as he does to aviation”. According to one senior figure in the sport, “he feels every ball that’s kicked”. Certainly, he has won the respect of the citizens of Rome: not just for improving the financial fortunes of AS Roma, but for the respect he has shown for the club’s traditions.

Dan Friedkin's cautious optimism in Liverpool

Friedkin’s acquisition of Everton isn’t a done deal – although ploughing in £200 million to help with loan payments and provide working capital shows considerable good faith. There is also the possibility that it could “re-ignite debate” about “multi-club ownership”, says the FT, particularly when teams from the same stable are ranged against each other. The counter-argument is that none of Friedkin’s teams (he also owns France’s fourth-tier side Cannes) are likely to encounter each other in international competition any time soon. The overriding feeling in Liverpool, says long-term Everton fan Patrick Boyland in The New York Times, is one of “cautious optimism” after “years of near misses and false dawns”. Friedkin represents “a significant upgrade on the baseball-cap crew from Miami”.

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Jane writes profiles for MoneyWeek and is city editor of The Week. A former British Society of Magazine Editors editor of the year, she cut her teeth in journalism editing The Daily Telegraph’s Letters page and writing gossip for the London Evening Standard – while contributing to a kaleidoscopic range of business magazines including Personnel Today, Edge, Microscope, Computing, PC Business World, and Business & Finance.

She has edited corporate publications for accountants BDO, business psychologists YSC Consulting, and the law firm Stephenson Harwood – also enjoying a stint as a researcher for the due diligence department of a global risk advisory firm.

Her sole book to date, Stay or Go? (2016), rehearsed the arguments on both sides of the EU referendum.

She lives in north London, has a degree in modern history from Trinity College, Oxford, and is currently learning to play the drums.