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Friday 22 September 2017

Broughton seeks stability at Liverpool as rival buyers prepare to bid

Rory Smith

FOUR of Liverpool's suitors are expected to table bids soon after club chairman Martin Broughton informed all interested parties they must submit formal, legally-binding proposals by the end of the week.

Kenny Huang, the Chinese entrepreneur who was the first to declare his hand in the battle to oust owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett and take control of the club, is expected to submit his offer, worth around £400m, early this week, despite continuing confusion over the identity of his backers. Huang has held talks with Broughton and Barclays Capital (Barcap), the investment bank appointed six months ago to identify new owners. He is described as a "serious contender" by sources at the club, Barcap and the Royal Bank of Scotland, who own Liverpool's £237m debt. The three rival bidders who emerged after Huang's declaration of interest last week all have just five days to decide whether they will attempt to better that offer.

Of those suitors, the Syrian-Canadian businessman Yahya Kirdi seems the most bullish. Reportedly backed by money from the Emirate of Sharjah, Kirdi is thought to be Hicks and Gillett's preferred bidder. Meanwhile, Rhone Group, the New York-based private equity firm, and the Kuwaiti Al-Kharafi family are considering whether to crystallise their interest.

Broughton has insisted the process will not be an 'auction' in which the highest price wins, but rather one in which he attempts to secure the best possible future ownership for the club. The proposals must include detailed plans and provide proof of funds.

Broughton is believed to be keen to secure a cash-only sale to one individual, rather than to two or more parties, to avoid a repeat of the debt troubles Liverpool have endured under Hicks and Gillett. The club have seen several possible investors fail to strike a deal because of two years of stalemate, before Broughton arrived, on a board made up of rival Hicks and Gillett factions.

The club are also adamant any new owner must provide detailed plans for the construction of a new stadium on Stanley Park, while at least one of the bids is expected to include provisions to draft former players and some fan representatives on to an advisory panel in contact with the club's board. Though Liverpool's club secretary, Ian Sylvester, suggested last week any deal would take weeks to complete, time is of the essence for the Anfield side. Hicks and Gillett paid around £36.5m in interest on their debt for the last period for which accounts are available and, the longer the process drags on, the more money Liverpool will be forced to pay RBS to service their debt. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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