Liverpool to be bought by Boston Red Sox owners

Liverpool are to be sold to the owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball team.

But the takeover by the New England Sports Ventures (NESV) is subject to the resolution of a legal dispute with US owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

The Premier League, who have refused to comment at this stage, will also have to approve the latest American buyout.

Earlier Hicks and Gillett tried to sack managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre in a last-ditch bid to keep control of the club.

In an attempt to block any sale and regain control of the crisis-hit club, Liverpool’s much criticised owners tried to replace Purslow and Ayre with Hicks’s son, Mack Hicks, and Lori Kay McCutcheon, a vice president at Hicks Holdings.

Hicks and Gillett are understood to have argued that the club’s English directors were not acting in the best interests of Liverpool and that the NESV bid – as well another undisclosed offer from Asia – “dramatically undervalued the club”.

Purslow, Ayre and chairman Martin Broughton are now consulting lawyers over whether they can resist the owners’ attempts to replace them and force through a sale.

“I am delighted that we have been able to successfully conclude the sale process which has been thorough and extensive,” said Broughton.

“The Board decided to accept NESV’s proposal on the basis that it best met the criteria we set out originally for a suitable new owner. NESV’s philosophy is all about winning and they have fully demonstrated that at Red Sox.

“We’ve met them in Boston, London and Liverpool over several weeks and I am immensely impressed with what they have achieved and with their vision for Liverpool Football Club.

“By removing the burden of acquisition debt, this offer allows us to focus on investment in the team.

“I am only disappointed that the owners have tried everything to prevent the deal from happening and that we need to go through legal proceedings in order to complete the sale.”

NESV currently owns a portfolio of companies including the Boston Red Sox, New England Sports Network, Fenway Sports Group and Rousch Fenway Racing.

They are partly owned by futures and foreign exchange trading advisor John W. Henry who has an estimated fortune of £540m.

Henry, 61, made his fortune in hedge funds, but has used it to indulge his sporting interests, most famously with the Boston Red Sox baseball team, but also in the NASCAR motorsport series.

The self-made multi-millionaire from Illinois does not have the serious money of the Premier League’s wealthiest owners but he does have an excellent track record of success with his teams.

After owning a number of minor league teams, and briefly controlling the Florida Marlins, Henry and his partners in New England Sports Ventures, Tom Werner and the New York Times Company, bought the Red Sox in 2002.

Within two years of Henry’s acquisition their 86-year wait to win the World Series title came to an end. Three years later, they won the title again.

NESV are thought to be offering about £300m for the club, enough to pay back the £240m of loans and £40m of fees owed to Royal Bank of Scotland, which must be settled at the end of next week.

However, this valuation falls well short of the £600m that Hicks and Gillett are thought to want for the club, hence their opposition.

Liverpool were put up for sale by Hicks and Gillett in April with debts of £351.4m.

They initially sought an asking price of about £800m, a figure they subsequently dropped to £600m.

In August, there were abortive bids from Hong Kong businessman Kenny Huang while a consortium fronted by Syrian businessman Yahya Kirdi also expressed an interest.

The owners paid £174.1m to buy the club in 2007, while also agreeing to take on the club’s debt of £44.8m.

Many fans have become increasingly outraged at the pair’s ownership of the club, which is said to be currently £237.4m in debt, and their failure to carry through promises to build a new stadium.

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has set a deadline of 15 October for that debt to be repaid or a penalty fee of £60m will be due.

The bank has the option of extending the deadline once again, or calling it in, taking control and then selling the club to the highest bidder.

Liverpool’s troubles off the pitch have coincided with the Anfield club making their worst start to a league campaign since 1953-54, when they were relegated. The Reds are currently wallowing in 18th place in the Premier League.
Source: BBC

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