Liverpool announced last night that an agreement had been reached between the Board of Directors and New England Sports Ventures for the sale of Liverpool F.C. subject to Premier League approval.
But, as always with Liverpool, that’s not the whole story.
Before the board met to approve the sale, owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett tried to remove Managing Director Christian Purslow and Commercial Director Ian Ayre from the board and replace them with Tom Hicks’ son, Mack and Lori McCutcheon, the financial controller at Hicks Holdings. Hicks then apparently rejected both the bid from NESV and another bid from an Asian consortium, believing both undervalued the club.
It looks as though this is going to go to the courts. Chairman Martin Broughton is adamant that the removal of Purslow and Ayre is not a valid course of action because as part of the loan underwriting, only Broughton has the authority to change the board and Broughton also claims it was agreed that Hicks and Gillett would not interfere with the sale process, provided the bid was reasonable (I’m guessing Hicks and Gillett will argue the bid was unreasonable).
Something that immediately sprang to my mind from hearing of the stance that Tom Hicks has taken in trying to oust Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre was that the two names that have been put forward are Mack Hicks (actually my first thought was that he sounds like a hillbilly fast-food place!) and Lori McCutcheon. These are both closely connected to Tom Hicks so what part, if any, does George Gillett now play in the day to day affairs of the club?
Tom Hicks and George Gillett own 100% of the club so they have the right to place whatever value they wish on the club (although it doesn’t mean someone will pay it). They can also reject any bid they deem unacceptable. In theory.
The big question for the future of the sale is what influence the Royal Bank of Scotland, the bank that Hicks and Gillett have a looming deadline to replay their loan (and it is THEIR loan, not the club’s, who owe Hicks and Gillett), has on the sale. It is unknown if it is part of the underwriting of the loan that they have some sort of say on what the owners can or can’t do with regards to rejecting any bids.
The court case will probably centre around three main points:
1) Was the action of the board in drawing up the sale agreement valid?
2) Can Hicks and Gillett remove Purslow and Ayre from the board?
3) Do Hicks and Gillett still have the authority to reject any bid for the club?
Assuming Broughton wins and the sale goes through, and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have stuck his neck this far out if he wasn’t confident of the sale going through, NESV have given assurances that the acquisition debt will be cleared and the stadium project will either go ahead or they’ll look into the viability of renovating Anfield.
What is a bit weird is that the official club website released a statement basically saying a bid had been accepted, Hicks had relieved Purslow and Ayre of their duties and that legal action was impending. That is pretty strange for the club to actually spell it out in such a way. Usually this kind of thing happens either behind closed doors or through controlled press leaks. Martin Broughton has released a Q&A on the sale which you can have a look at.
The reception to this impending takeover has been mixed. Unfortunately most of the ‘Yanks Out’ brigade are still sticking to that stance so they are opposed to more Americans taking control (maybe they just don't want to throw their banners out). Some are once again bemoaning the club falling into foreign ownership. Some fans are worried that the new owners are not as rich as the Manchester City owners (which, I’m glad about, I’d hate for Liverpool to turn into what City have become) Most fans are just glad that there may be an end to the Hicks and Gillett reign of Liverpool and the club can concentrate on winning again.
What I’ve found funny is that most fans were happy to believe that Christian Purslow was some kind of Machiavellian figure behind the scenes and were trying to run him out of town on the end of their pitchforks, despite all of the good things he’s done on the commercial side of the club. The guy’s had all kinds of mud slung in his direction by some of the more ignorant ‘fans’ that are willing to believe anything some of the more vitriolic fan sites tell them about his so-called nefarious activities (I even saw one site where a poster was calling Kenny Dalglish a ‘traitorous c**t’ for committing the unspeakable crime of sitting next to Purslow at a game!).
It now seems as though Purslow was a major player in preventing Tom Hicks from gaining complete control of the club, blocking his refinancing plans at every turn and some of these fans have been left with egg on their faces. Even some of the fan sites that were calling for his head have now done a U-Turn and are giving Purslow some of the praise he deserves.
Whatever words you want to use to describe Liverpool at the moment, and there are many you coud use, boring is not one of them.