Wednesday 28 June 2017

Chinese whispers

Huang admits he's not backed by government but insists his Liverpool bid is not just . . .

Ian Herbert

The chinese businessman seeking to take over Liverpool categorically denied last night that the Chinese state government was financing the bid in any way, though he insisted that he would table between £400m and £450m to secure the club's future.

Kenny Huang's declaration, which was accompanied by an acknowledgement that the consortium of investors he has gathered does not have the funds to relocate Liverpool immediately to a new stadium, moved to make his position clear after the Chinese government faced a barrage of questions from taxpayers wanting to know why state finance was being spent on a football club through the Chinese Investment Corporation (CIC).

Huang's representatives were unable to say last night whether the search for investors to secure the sum of near £400m was now complete, and it is also understood that Huang does not believe the deal will be sealed by the time the transfer window closes on August 31.

Liverpool's non-executive chairman Martin Broughton said earlier this week that he wanted the sale concluded by then.

But the Huang camp have said discussions with Liverpool are "reasonably advanced" and he has also said through a business associate Marc Ganis, whose Chicago-based company Sportscorp has helped compile the bid, that an an "investor group" made up of at least five individuals would provide the funds for the bid.

A number of respected financial sources have indicated that the CIC, the $300bn sovereign wealth fund, had been a part of the consortium, but it is clear that the barrage of publicity associated with the Liverpool story has startled the Chinese authorities and Huang's priority last night was to make it clear that the corporation was not one of the "passive investors" involved.

He appears to have been attempting on Tuesday to dispel suggestions that CIC were backing him, when he sent an email from his mobile telephone indicating to a respected Chinese sports journalist that the sovereign wealth was, indeed, not behind him.

Credibility

That email was evidently intended for his PR representatives, with whom he was formulating the wording, but reached the journalist instead. In an attempt to put the credibility of the Huang bid back on track, his representatives set up interviews with Ganis yesterday for the Associated Press and the 'Wall Street Journal', though it was not until last night that the notion of CIC's immediate involvement was finally dispelled.

Ganis offered more detail on the structure and companies behind the Chinese bid, though he said that what had been put to Liverpool was not "a formal proposal" but "the broad parameters of a proposal to see if it would be welcomed -- and it was".

If a deal to buy Liverpool went through, the club would be owned by a new company ultimately controlled by QSL Sports Limited, the company headed by Huang and a long-time associate of his, Yang Guang, who is executive vice-president of Franklin Templeton Investments and chief investment officer of the China Life/Franklin Templeton Fund, an investment bank. Ganis said that Huang and Yang would be involved in the day-to-day management of the club.

The size of investment would be enough to leave Liverpool debt-free, make an equity contribution to the process of moving to a new stadium, and provide a significant contribution to manager Roy Hodgson's transfer fund. Ganis said: "Liverpool is and always should be one of the highest-spending clubs in all of football. And our financial models presume Liverpool will be at or near the top in spending on players every year."

But Ganis said the Chinese were unwilling to line the pockets of current owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, who are looking for a return on the £130m they have sunk into the club, and that they would not meet their asking price of £600m-£800m. "What is not one of our goals is the enrichment of the existing owners," Ganis said. "If we submit a proposal and it is accepted, it would be focused on the future and not the past." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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