Now that Tom Hicks and George Gillett are no longer the owners of Liverpool. I wanted to take a look back over their reign. It would be really easy for me to write something condemning them and cursing the day they ever set foot in Liverpool. This is the opinion of many of my fellow Liverpool fans and some neutral football fans too.fficeffice" />
However, I’ve never really bought into the whole ‘yank liars’ view of Hicks and Gillett. While their reign was not a success, and they undoubtedly made some bad decisions and behaved badly during their tenure, they really did do a lot of good for the club that is completely overlooked. They turned around (or at least hired the people who did) a horribly underperforming commercial department, with the club having signed a record sponsorship deal last summer with Standard Chartered. They also bought Fernando Torres, Javier Mascherano (they made his loan deal permanent) and have paid large transfer fees.
So instead of ripping Hicks and Gillett apart, I thought I’d give my take on some of the myths that were told about their tenure at the club and I’ll try to express the reasons why I’ve come to these conclusions.
Myth: Liverpool would be better off if David Moores had sold to DIC rather than Hicks and Gillett.
There is no definite answer to this as it falls into the ‘what might have been’ category, so this answer is just my personal opinion, but I don’t believe that Liverpool would have been much better off, if at all, had DIC’s bid been accepted.
For anyone who doesn’t know, DIC (Dubai Investment Capital) are the investment arm of the Dubai government. Unlike some of the other United Arab Emirates, Dubai doesn’t produce a lot of oil (unlike Abu Dhabi, so Liverpool wouldn’t have had Manchester City’s oil money to spend, like I’ve heard a lot of people say). Dubai’s finances were built on the construction and tourism industries. Both these industries were heavily affected by the global economic crisis and Dubai was hit hard.
This resulted in fellow emirate Abu Dhabi having to loan Dubai up to $5bn to bail out its investment companies. Part of this agreement meant that some of Dubai’s assets were given to Abu Dhabi. Where this potentially would have left Liverpool is anyone’s guess. What could have happened is a situation where the Abu Dhabi government effectively became the owners of Liverpool, which would’ve produced an interesting situation as Manchester City are owned by Abu Dhabi’s investment company so the league may have had to step in to sort it out.
Also, DIC had publicly stated its intention to sell the club after 7 years, which is a fact that the fans that accused the Americans of only being in it for the money, gloss over.
Whilst there is no definitive answer over whether or not Liverpool would be better off if DIC had taken over the club. It may be true that a new stadium would’ve been built by now, but given the fact that Dubai itself suffered severe financial hardship, I don’t believe that Liverpool would be as well off as some anti-Hicks and Gillett fans would have you believe.
Myth: George Gillett lied about building the new stadium
I don’t want to dwell on this point too much as I’ve previously posted on why I don’t believe the owners lied about a new stadium. The now infamous ‘spade in the ground’ comment, in my opinion, was a statement of intent; rather the cast-iron promise people seem to believe it to be. What happened in reality was that when Hicks and Gillett took over, a stadium design had received planning permission and financing was in place. This is when Gillett made the remark.
After that infamous press conference was given, Hicks and Gillett got a second opinion on the stadium design and were told that the proposed stadium was already obsolete. The plans were scrapped and a new design was drawn up. This required the planning permission process to begin again and by the time permission was granted, the credit crunch hit and the finances were no longer available as the two banks involved, RBS and Wachovia had both been bailed out..
So while I want the new stadium as much as anyone, I wouldn’t have wanted us to spend millions on a new stadium only to find it’s obsolete straight away. I don’t think Gillett’s a liar; if anything he was a little over-enthusiastic, which is hardly a crime.
With regards to the debt. I never found any direct quote where the owners promised not to lay any debt on the club. In any case, they didn’t. The debt was on the holding company, not the club. Big difference.
Myth: Tom Hicks has previous form, he ruined Brazilian club Corinthians
The way some fans tell this, Hicks rolled into Sao Paulo, promised Corinthians the world, delivered nothing and then the club were relegated and in financial ruin.
To be honest here, I’d never really seen what the relevance of what happened at Corinthians had to do with Liverpool. I just figured because it went wrong for Hicks at Corinthians, that’s no indicator it’d go wrong for Liverpool.
But then I had another thought, I realised that I didn’t actually know any specific details about this; just the brush strokes that some anti-Hicks fan groups had made a big issue of. Well, I’ve had a closer look into the Corinthians issue and I can’t see any conclusive evidence that Hicks did anything wrong at all.
For a start, it was the company Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst who bought Corinthians, not just Tom Hicks. From what I’ve read, HMT&F only bought 49% of the club too, so they weren’t even majority owners (though I’d imagine it was a controlling stake). Also, I’ve not seen a single direct quote from Tom Hicks about Corinthians, only Charles Tate. So I haven’t seen anything definitive that Hicks played much of a role at all in Corinthians.
Hicks left HMT&F a couple of years before they sold to Kia Joorabchian’s MSI group, who seem to bear the brunt of Corinthians fans ire for the trouble that followed, and Corinthians were relegated in 2007.
I’m not going to claim I’m the best informed on this whole saga, maybe any Corinthians fans reading could clear things up but I don’t believe it’s fair to lay this one at Hicks’ door.
Myth: Hicks and Gillett will lose £140m in the sale of Liverpool
This seems to have delighted many people who were all too glad to give the owners got a final ‘f*** you’.
I’m not really sure where the figure of £140m has come from. It just seemed to appear in the media one day and everyone used it. The last club accounts showed that the owners had loaned Liverpool £101m. Maybe the confusion was in what was actually sold to NESV. The owners had loaned Kop Football Ltd, the holding company, £145m from Kop Football Holdings, but that wasn’t what was sold.
To clarify, what was actually sold was Liverpool Football Club and Athletic Grounds Ltd, i.e. the club. Not the holding company.
The other point is, will Hicks and Gillett actually lose that sum of money? I’m not convinced. It is a loan and will need to be repaid. With Hicks and Gillett launching a damages suit, it stands to reason that they’ll try and reclaim the money they lent the club.
Myth: Hicks and Gillett didn’t back Rafa Benitez in the transfer market
This argument depends on just how much you believe net spend (Total transfer money spent-total transfer money recouped through sales) is an indicator of how much a manager is backed in the transfer market. Some of Rafa Benitez’s most ardent supporters look at the average net spend figure under Hicks and Gillett of about £7m as proof that Benitez is a football genius.
I don’t believe it’s important. In my opinion, Gross spend (i.e. How much you actually had available to you and spent) is a far more valuable tool in judging whether or not a manager was backed and effective in the transfer market.
From the club accounts, Rafa Benitez had a gross spend of £188m under Hicks and Gillett. Hardly chump change. So while Liverpool certainly didn’t (and still don’t) have the spending power of Chelsea or Manchester City, it’s not accurate to say Benitez wasn’t given money to spend. He was and, for the most part, wasted it.
It was undeniable that Hicks and Gillett had to go, their popularity was such that even if they had started to sneeze out gold bars, signed Lionel Messi and the entire Barcelona team, built a new stadium and gave out free tickets for life to everyone, they would have been despised.
If people didn’t like the former owners, then that’s their right. Where I had a problem was that a lot of those people either didn’t know why they disliked them, or formed their opinions solely based on lies and misinformation spread about by some of the more militant and sensationalist fan groups and websites and just accepted every point as the gospel truth. That’s before some of these ‘fans’ took their protests way too far, with personal attacks, threats and xenophobic chants/banners, their behaviour only really succeeded in shaming Liverpool fans in the eyes of the world.
With many legitimate reasons to criticise Hicks and Gillett, public disagreements, leaking the approach to Jurgen Klinsmann, etc. I just don’t see what anyone had to gain by twisting the truth or making things up. It only served to dilute a legitimate argument.