Sunday 19 November 2017

Red Sox owners make £300m bid for Liverpool

Paul Kelso

THE Liverpool board met yesterday to consider two new bids for the club, one of which is understood to have been received from the American sports franchise which owns the Boston Red Sox.

The UK-based board members led by chairman Martin Broughton are understood to be ready to pursue advanced negotiations with one or both parties but have met opposition from American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

An attempt to refinance the club by Hicks and Gillett is also understood to have been discussed and was rejected by Broughton and the UK-based directors.

The impasse means that the future of the club remains in the balance, with lawyers engaged by the non-owner directors said to be examining if they have the power to sell the club against the wishes of Hicks and Gillett, who own 100pc of the equity.

The provenance of the second bid is unknown, but both bidders are understood to be offering in the region of £300m for the club.

That is enough to cover approximately £280m in loan and fees owed to Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and provide a small amount to help refresh the playing squad.

Neither bid is willing to pay the Americans a consideration for their equity in the club, and with Hicks and Gillett maintaining that their investment demands a return, they are said to have stepped in to reject a sale.

Relations between the club's chairman Broughton, managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre, and the American owners are understood to have almost completely broken down.

Sources have indicated that Broughton and his UK-based colleagues are content that both potential owners would mark a considerable improvement on Hicks and Gillett, and would satisfy the demand that new owners would be better guardians of the club's image and future.

Crucially both bidders are understood to be acceptable to RBS, whose loans to the club become due on October 15.

The Premier League is also understood to have been informed of the identity of the two new bidders, though neither has yet formally begun clearing the regulatory hurdles set out by the league.

The new bids come with Liverpool rooted in the bottom three after a dismal start to the season which has largely been blamed on the instability off the pitch.

The impending deadline of the RBS loan deadline has led to a series of increasingly fraught negotiations since the season began.

In August, several potential bidders made their interest public, including Chinese sports marketing agent Kenneth Huang and Syrian businessman Yaya Kirdi.

Neither was able to demonstrate that they had the funds to proceed and both eventually withdrew from the process amid scepticism about their means.

Last month Hicks attempted to refinance the RBS debt with a division of hedge fund Blackstone, but was told by Broughton and his UK-based colleagues that a leveraged alternative to RBS was not acceptable.

In June the non-owner directors also rejected an attempt to refinance the debt by Hicks and Gillett.

The future of the club may ultimately rest on the attitude of RBS, which is considering whether to refinance the Americans' loan or force them out.

The bank is reluctant to take control of the football club, given the public-relations risks involved, but it is applying pressure to try and force the Americans to accept a sale.

RBS was responsible for installing Broughton in an attempt to expedite a swift sale, but the process looks likely to end in litigation.

Hicks and Gillett remain convinced that they have added value to the club and that it is worth in excess of £400m. With no bidder willing to meet their demands, however, the impasse continues to undermine Liverpool. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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