Anfield board will meet to approve sale to NESV after High Court victory
The Liverpool board will meet this evening with the intention of approving the club’s sale to New England Sports Ventures (NESV) after winning a decisive High Court victory over current owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett this morning.
The board meeting will take place after 8pm, the deadline set by Mr Justice Floyd for Hicks and Gillett to consent to reinstate the club board dismantled last week when the Americans attempted to block the NESV sale.
The Liverpool owners ordered the removal of Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre in order to frustrate the sale to NESV, but they must now be reinstated. Should the owners fail to grant permission club chairman Martin Broughton was granted the power to restore them.
Broughton will take legal advice as to whether he has to consider any of the other bids that have surfaced over the last 48 hours, but in the wake of today’s judgment he was clearly confident of completing a sale.
“We are absolutely delighted and we feel justice has been done,” Broughton said. “That’s what we came for and that is what we got. We have been here to complete a sale process. We said at the outset that we would find the right owners and that was our target. I think we have done that.”
Asked whether the board will seek to approve the NESV deal Broughton said: “We will take legal advice on that. We will get the board reconstituted by 8pm and we plan to have a board meeting soon after that, and we will continue the sale process.”
The outcome of the board meeting will determine whether the club and NESV need to seek a second declaratory judgment to approve the sale. This morning legal advisors to NESV suggested it would not be necessary.
The judgment from Mr Justice Floyd went emphatically against Hicks and Gillett and in favour of Royal Bank of Scotland, which accused the Americans of breaching the terms of their financing by seeking to change the board last week.
The judge said they had clearly breached undertakings given to RBS not to interfere with the board or the sale process.
“The true position is that in order to ensure additional loans the owners have released absolute control of the sale process that they are now seeking to regain,” he said.
“When it became clear that the sale process was proceeding on a basis unpalatable to them they sought to renege on that agreement. There is no basis to find that what they did was justified.”
Mr Justice Floyd also rejected a counter claim from Hicks and Gillett seeking to prevent the NESV sale on the ground that it would damage the club.
“I am not prepared to grant relief, the effect of which would be to stop the sale and purchase agreement [with NESV] from going ahead,” he said.
“There is no doubt that the current position of the club is unsatisfactory and the continuing uncertainty is damaging to it and the underlying value of the asset that they are seeking to sell. The potential damage of granting an injunction would be substantial.”
Hicks and Gillett will now consider their position after Mr Justice Floyd declined to grant them permission to appeal. They are free to seek permission in the Court of Appeal however.
Keith Oliver, solicitor for the Hicks and Gillett, said: “We are obviously disappointed at the judge’s determination. Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett will now consider their next steps.”