Thursday 23 February 2017

Hicks and Gillett bid to end deadlock with timely reshuffle of board

Rory Smith

Liverpool's owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, moved yesterday to break the deadlock which has afflicted the club for more than a year by announcing a reshuffle of the club's board in the aftermath of the resignation of director Tom Hicks Jnr for sending an abusive email to a concerned fan.

Hicks Jnr will be replaced by Casey Coffman, a trusted lieutenant of his father and the executive vice-president of Hicks Holdings.

A club statement confirmed that Ian Ayre and Philip Nash, Liverpool's commercial and finance directors, had also been appointed to the board, a move first ratified before Christmas.

The three new appointments join Hicks Snr, his business partner George Gillett and his son Foster and Christian Purslow, Liverpool's managing director, on an expanded board of seven.

Sources at the club have confirmed that the move is a deliberate attempt to avoid the sort of stalemate which has hamstrung Liverpool for so long as the Anfield hierarchy prepare for a year likely to be laced with significant decisions.

Purslow has been given the task of finding an investor, or several, to take a 25pc stake in the club for £100m.

While Anfield sources have confirmed no investment is imminent, he is thought to be confident of securing an infusion of much-needed equity before the end of March.

The club hope that a cash injection will enable work on Liverpool's new stadium, dormant for nearly 18 months, to resume.

Both of those aims will be far easier to accomplish with a board not mired in the inertia created by the breakdown of relations between the Hicks and Gillett camps in 2008.

It is a measure of the control now wielded by Purslow in particular that the club have been able to act so decisively, and one which bodes well for Liverpool's hopes of securing the cash needed to move the club forward after 18 months of stagnation.

Such a prospect, of course, can do nothing but help Purslow's quest for investors. He is believed to have held talks with several parties in recent months and investment has been described as being "very close" for a number of weeks.

In such a climate, the controversy created by Hicks Jnr's obscene emails, labelling a fan concerned by Liverpool's financial future an "idiot" and instructing him to "go to hell, I'm sick of you" could not be countenanced.

Hicks Jnr offered to resign as soon as news of the controversial correspondence broke, but it is believed that his father and club officials decided to wait to see whether the storm abated.

By Sunday morning, as the furore surrounding the incident grew, it had become clear that he had to fall on his sword. The rest of the board unanimously accepted his resignation, which had been called for by the club's supporters' union, Spirit of Shankly, a group dedicated to ousting Hicks and Gillett.

Paul Rice, the organisation's chairman, described Hicks's position as "untenable," while a statement from the group insisted that he had no choice but to do the "honourable" thing and resign, despite an apology to the fan concerned.

Such was Hicks Jnr's reading of the situation. "I have great respect for Liverpool Football Club, especially the club's supporters," he said in a statement yesterday.

"I apologise for my mistake and I am very sorry for my harmful words. I do not want my actions to take away from the club's future, and therefore I am resigning from the board. To the fans and to the club, please accept my sincerest apologies."

Both the Hicks and Gillett families receive a significant quantity of threatening and abusive emails from disgruntled supporters, but that is explanation, rather than excuse. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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