Offer from Boston Red Sox owners

Liverpool on the brink of sale

October 5, 2010
By Harry Harris, Football Correspondent

ESPNsoccernet can reveal that Liverpool are on the brink of being sold after two new credible buyers, tabled offers for the stricken Premier League giants, though that news is tempered by the fact that current owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks are refusing to walk away from the club with nothing.

George Gillett and Tom Hicks
GettyImagesThe Liverpool supporters have never taken to co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks

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The Liverpool board met on Tuesday to discuss which bid to accept - one of them from New England Sports Ventures, owners of US baseball team the Boston Red Sox - but while three board members favoured a sale, the proposals are still being blocked by Hicks and Gillett. .

The American duo attempted to oust managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre before the meeting took place, an apparent sign of just how fervently they oppose the offers on the table.

A statement on Liverpool's official website read: "The board of directors have received two excellent financial offers to buy the club that would repay all its long-term debt. A board meeting was called today to review these bids and approve a sale.

"Shortly prior to the meeting, the owners - Tom Hicks and George Gillett - sought to remove managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre from the board, seeking to replace them with Mack Hicks and Lori Kay McCutcheon. This matter is now subject to legal review and a further announcement will be made in due course.

"Meanwhile Martin Broughton, Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre continue to explore every possible route to achieving a sale of the Club at the earliest opportunity."

Months of abortive bids from across the globe - including offers from India, Canada and the Middle East, as well as speculation that the Chinese Government were even tabling a bid - all fell by the wayside as the buyers were unable to offer up proof of funds.

And it had looked as though the deadline set by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) on October 15 - to call in their £237 million loans to Hicks and Gillett - could have seen the bank take control of the club or consider placing the company into administration, likely invoking a subsequent nine-point Premier League deduction.

With Liverpool having slipped into the relegation zone, lost to Northampton Town in the Carling Cup, and with manager Roy Hodgson under intense pressure after the poor results on the pitch, worries about no takeover being in sight had led to despair setting in at Anfield.

But potential new owners have finally emerged from the United States and Asia, with the bidders possessing the necessary credibility to convince chairman Martin Broughton to sell and save one of football's biggest institutions right in the nick of time.

Yet the fight is far from over, as the outgoing American owners are desperately trying to block the bids because both Hicks and Gillett will be frozen out of receiving any money for their shares.

Hicks and Gillett released their own statement in response to the club's: "In April, we confirmed our agreement to sell Liverpool Football Club, and appointed a new chairman and advisers to oversee the process. At that time we and Martin Broughton stated our commitment to finding the right buyer for LFC, one that could support and sustain the club in the future. We remain committed to that goal.

"The owners have invested more than 270 million US dollars in cash into the club, and during their tenure revenues have nearly doubled, investment in players has increased and the club is one of the most profitable in the EPL. As such, the board has been presented with offers that we believe dramatically undervalue the club.

"To be clear, there is no change in our commitment to finding a buyer for Liverpool Football Club at a fair price that reflects the very significant investment we've made. We will, however, resist any attempt to sell the club without due process or agreement by the owners.''

Chairman Broughton, brought in to find a buyer by RBS, has insisted that prospective new owners of Liverpool would need the funds to bring in new players, and also to eventually build a new £400 million stadium.

Hicks and Gillett initially valued the club at £800 million, when they first revealed their intention to search for a buyer earlier this year, but it quickly became clear that such a sum was way beyond any true value.

The American duo claim that they are owed at least £150 million but will be shocked that the offers that Broughton, chief executive Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre are ready to accept do not include any money to pay off Hicks and Gillett.

It is a scenario that will delight Liverpool fans, who will want funds channelled into the club for players and the new stadium, and not back into the pockets of the detested Hicks and Gillett, who have been the target of widespread demonstrations at recent home matches at Anfield. However, on the evidence of recent machinations from the pair, including an attempted refinancing of the debt with American investment company Blackstone by Hicks, it seems highly unlikely that will go down without a fight.