Liverpool hold all aces in game of Texas Hold'em
Judge renders Dallas-based injunction obtained by Hicks and Gillett null and void but board fears more wrangling
Published 15/10/2010 | 05:00
Liverpool's directors were last night awaiting the next unknown obstacle owner Tom Hicks and George Gillett intend to throw in the way of the club's sale, despite a second High Court victory in as many days which paved the way for a judge in the Americans' own back yard to allow a New England Sports Ventures takeover.
A London High Court judge granted an injunction late yesterday which rendered the legal action taken in Dallas by Hicks and Gillett -- which prevented the £300m sale -- null and void.
Judge Christopher Floyd ordered the Americans to withdraw their own action by 4.0 this afternoon or be held in contempt of court.
Legal experts in Dallas said that local judge, Jim Jordan, who had granted the outgoing owners a rushed restraining order, would almost certainly defer to the High Court.
Jordan, a state judge in the 160th District Court in Dallas, adjourned yesterday's new hearing until today at 1.0pm (Irish time) after declining to comment when informed about the injunction in England.
NESV lawyer David Chivers said the sale would go through once the Texas case was withdrawn.
However, Liverpool's non-executive chairman Martin Broughton is believed to feel that Hicks and Gillett's recent desperate actions to stave off a sale -- including attempting to sack two board members and also launching a $1.6bn damages claim against the club and its directors -- means that they will stop at nothing to prevent NESV's accession. Hicks and Gillett stand to lose £144m.
Legal sources in Dallas believe Judge Jordan wants to hold another legal hearing with all parties present, rather than resolve the issue through a conference call.
Broughton feels he is inching closer to the sale of the club to NESV, though the mood in the NESV camp was more optimistic than his.
NESV declared that they were already owners of the club, following two board meetings in the space of nine days which have approved the sale. NESV believe that if the Texas case can be struck out by 3.0pm today, then the sale of the club to them could go through by close of play.
Today is the deadline by which £200m of loans taken out by Hicks and Gillett to buy the club must be repaid to Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). The new Americans had initially been ready to make the £300m payment for the purchase of the club today.
Despite rumours to the contrary, it seems that Hicks has not managed to halt an NESV deal by selling his 50pc share of Liverpool to Mill Financial, who are understood already to have assumed Gillett's 50pc, giving them the chance to pay off RBS and take control.
"We are the owners (of Liverpool)," NESV's barrister David Chivers told the High Court during yesterday's hearing. "The owners from beyond the grave are seeking to exercise with their dead hand a continuing grip on this company."
Judge Floyd said the legal action in Texas amounted to "unconscionable conduct on the part of Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett. This case has no real connection to Texas," he said. He criticised Hicks and Gillett for not telling the Texas court that the High Court in London had ruled against them earlier on Wednesday in their attempts to block the sale. It was a deliberate omission not to mention the fact," Floyd said.
The reasons for Broughton's concern was underlined by the legal wrangling which continued on both sides of the Atlantic as Hicks and Gillett's company filed a motion in Dallas asking that the Royal Bank of Scotland, NESV and Liverpool's independent board members be held in contempt and jailed.
"Further showing their unlawful intentions and brazen disregard for their obligations, defendants have undisputedly -- and, according to their statements, quite proudly -- violated this court's temporary restraining order," the motion said.
Anthony Grabiner, a lawyer representing the Liverpool board at the London hearing, called the Dallas court case "frankly preposterous." He said: "It reads like a novel. If it wasn't so serious, it would be a joke...It's a grotesque parody of the truth."
Liverpool last night issued a statement on behalf of Broughton and the two directors the Americans tried to sack -- managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre.
"The independent directors of Liverpool Football Club are delighted with the verdict in the High Court," it said. "We are glad to have taken another important step towards completing the sale process." (© Independent News Service)