Sunday 22 April 2018

Henry promises Reds supporters that his actions will do the talking

Paul Kelso

New Liverpool owner John W Henry will travel to the club's Melwood training ground today to meet Roy Hodgson and the playing squad less than 24 hours after he secured the keys to Anfield.

Henry will wish his new employees luck before tomorrow's Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, a match he will not attend, and is likely to receive thanks in return for delivering the club from the fractious and bitter tenure of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

The deal that finally brought down the curtain on the most unhappy period in Liverpool's recent history was finally sealed at 4.0 yesterday afternoon in the London offices of Liverpool's solicitors Slaughter & May.

Eleven days after New England Sports Venture's first attempt to close a deal worth £300m, and after three trips to the High Court in as many days, Henry finally assumed control when the Wells Fargo bank in San Francisco finally released the club from the last of the loan agreements taken on by Hicks and Gillett.

Typically of a saga that has seen numerous twists, Wells Fargo only agreed to sign after holding out for several million pounds in fees they claimed to be owed on top of the £50m loan repayment.

The delay, allied to the time difference with the west coast, pushed the deal back close to the 5.0 deadline for RBS's £200m loans to be repaid.

Despite the hitches, the new owner of Liverpool declared himself "proud and humbled," but in contrast to his predecessors' arrival in 2007, he was careful to offer no hostages to fortune. He said it was too early to discuss his plans for the stadium development, player acquisitions or management.

He did make a commitment to a principle that will chime with supporters of a club that has not won a league title for 20 years, and never claimed the Premier League: winning.

"We are not going to say a lot, our actions will hopefully speak for themselves," Henry said. "But we are going to do a lot of listening. It's too early too say what we are going to do, but we are here to win."

Henry offered no insight as to how the deal will be funded, joking when asked that it will be "in pounds." He was quick to point out how it will not be funded, however: "I can guarantee you this is not a leveraged buyout," he said. Under the deal NESV paid off the £200m acquisition debt, £150m to RBS and £50m to Wells Fargo, and are understood to have used cash raised from their other business interests.

They will take on an existing RBS loan for working capital of £37m and assume responsibility for a £60m loan to fund player purchases and the stadium development find.

A day that had to end with the 5.0 deadline imposed by RBS, began with Henry tweeting his displeasure at a last-minute attempt to hijack his deal by Mill Financial, working in tandem with Hicks. "Final attempt to entrench their regime," he said.

At 8.30am came news that Hicks and Gillett had withdrawn the Texas order imposed on Wednesday night preventing the sale going ahead. The news freed Liverpool and NESV to proceed, but also raised concerns that Mill would try and step in.

Mill, controlled by Washington Redskins owner Dwight Shah, approached RBS to try and pay off some of the debt on Thursday and also requested that the Premier League subject them to its ownership tests. Both declined.

Mill is initially understood to have made a "low-ball" offer worth between £100m-£200m less than NESV's without the knowledge of Hicks and Gillett, but when Henry's bid went public they contacted Hicks.

But they failed because of legal barriers erected by RBS and club chairman Martin Broughton, which yesterday delivered the club to their preferred bidder.

Lawyers for the bank, club and NESV began final checks on the sale and purchase agreement agreed earlier this week after the restraining order was lifted, and the signing process began about 12.30 yesterday.

Henry added his signature to that of Broughton and RBS at around 12.45 leaving only Wells Fargo's consent for the deal to progress. That final hurdle was cleared at 4.0, and £200m lodged in an escrow account at NESV's London solicitors' Shearmans flowed to the two banks.

That ended the resistance of Hicks and Gillett, who fought every attempt to sell the club from under them in the last two weeks. Their final personal contact with the club came on Wednesday night at a bad-tempered board meeting that ratified the NESV deal. Thereafter they were spectators, powerless to act as the deal progressed. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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