Liverpool will be passed to another U.S owner after it has been wrested away from the hands of current owners in a court and boardroom battle. Chairman Martin Broughton and his board have agreed a £300m sale to New England Sports Ventures, owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball team. Current owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are opposed to the deal and have attempted to block the sale. Broughton, bought on in April to lend credibility to Hicks and Gillett’s sale of the club, is now locked into a legal fight with the owners.
The Liverpool board agreed the sale with NESV and in attempts to block the deal Hicks and Gillett have refused to accept Broughton’s authority and tried to fire two members of the three man board. Christian Purslow (managing director) and Ian Ayre (commercial director) were to be replaced with Tom Hick’s son, Mack and Lori McCutcheon of Hicks Holdings in a boardroom coup.
Broughton is confident in his authority to sell the club despite opposition from the owners. “When I took the role they gave a couple of written undertakings to Royal Bank of Scotland – that I was the only person entitled to change the board and that they would take no action to frustrate any reasonable sale,” stated Broughton “they gave those written undertakings and on Tuesday they flagrantly abused those undertakings.” Hicks has said that his new board is entirely legal and they have the authority to decide upon the deal, “We legally reconstituted the board” He claimed “and the board does not approve of this transaction.”
The Anfield club has long faced the possibility of going into administration and the accompanying 9 point penalty that would drop them out of the Premier League. Royal Bank of Scotland set a deadline for loan repayment which Liverpool is currently unable to fulfill. The sale agreement will enable the club to pay the bills as long as it goes through before the 15th of October. Of the agreed sale price, £200million will go to RBS to clear the outstanding debt liable under the latest refinancing, £40million will go on non-bank liabilities and the last £60million will go on costs incurred in development of the Stanley Park Stadium. The deadline for repayment creeps ever closer as the board and the owners now take to court for a declaratory judgment on whether the sale can be made.
Hicks and Gillett will do all they can to frustrate the sale as they stand to lose the £144m they’ve put into the club over their three and a half year tenure. The £300m agreed sale price is all tied into settling the clubs debts and the enforced sale will leave nothing for the owners. Even if they successfully disrupt the deal their loan with RBS must still be repaid by the 15th or else Kop Holdings, the company which owns Liverpool will be put into administration. RBS will give no further refinancing to Hicks and Gillett and could pursue them personally for the £237m owed. Because of this, Broughton has argued that this deal is within their interests as well and this is ‘their last opportunity to be the good guys’ after a less than positive legacy at the club. Adding insult to injury, once Kop Holdings is put into administration Hicks and Gillett’s ownership will be removed completely and RBS will be expected to sell the club to NESV anyway.
NESV is a group of 17 investors lead by American multimillionaire John W Henry and if the sale goes through the buyers are anticipated to attend the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park on Sunday the 17th. The appearance will be an attempt to differentiate themselves from the rarely present Hicks and Gillett. John W Henry has helped the Boston Red Sox win two World Series and his motor-racing team win the Daytona 500. Owner presence is a troubling feature of American ownership for anxious Liverpool fans but Broughton hopes that this track record will go some way to dispelling fans fears about yet another American owner.