While Liverpool’s takeover crisis is beginning to be resolved, its problems are far from over writes James ConlonLiverpool FC, a club steeped in tradition and history, now stands on the brink of complete anarchy. It had been a downward spiral ever since AC Milan claimed revenge against Liverpool in 2007 and the wheels seemed to accelerate off the pitch this season.
The passionate cries from the Kop faithful wanting a new regime in charge had, until now, seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. This led to a hostile reputation on Merseyside for American owners George Gillet and Tom Hicks who, since buying Liverpool in 2007 for £219 million, have engulfed the club with a staggering amount of debt. Due to their borrowings, they owe Royal Bank of Scotland in excess of £237 million.
However, there seemed to be a faint light at the end of the tunnel for Liverpool football club coming from another American salvation hero John Henry and his company New England Sports Venture group who tabled an offer worth £300 million for ownership of the Anfield club. This offer was accepted by Martin Broughton, who had been put in charge of selling the Anfield club before the Friday deadline as an administrator for Royal Bank of Scotland.
However, nothing ever happens easily at Anfield, and as ever there was a hitch. The hitch being Gillet and Hicks, who valued the club at £600 million and refused to sell under the conditions put in place by the Royal Bank of Scotland, as they would loose approximately £150 million.
The Liverpool board took their claim to the high court in order to sanction the sale of the club to New England Sports Venture.
Meanwhile Peter Lim, a Singapore entrepreneur worth over £1 billion, made an offer worth £320 million in addition to a £40 million transfer kitty for Roy Hodgson to spend in the January transfer market. However, in order for Lim’s bid to be successful, the high court needed to in favour of Hicks and Gillet and even then there was no guarantee that the Americans would sell-out to Lim as they valued Liverpool at a much higher figure.
The turmoil has also surfaced on the pitch, with Liverpool having their worst start ever to the Premier League.
Their fans have endured defeats to Blackpool, Manchester City and bitter rivals Manchester United since the start of the season and have seen their lynchpin in midfield, Javier Mascherano, walk out in favour of Barcelona FC to further spread the mood of doom and gloom across Anfield.
This, as well as Xabi Alonso’s exit last summer, has left Liverpool short in the midfield department. The purchase of Alberto Aquilani has proved to be a total disaster, while Raul Meireles hasn’t set the world alight since his move from Porto.
As the saga rolled on, the off-field activities escalated last Wednesday when the high court ruled in favour of Martin Broughton and the Liverpool board. Hicks and Gillet were infuriated by the decision and went to a high court in Dallas and got a restraining order against the proposed sale of the club to New England Sports Ventures. The high court in England again ruled that Hicks and Gillet had no case against the sanction of the sale.
On Thursday, Peter Lim, frustrated at not being given serious consideration by the Anfield board, retracted his offer and ruled himself out of contention for ownership of the club.
Then on Friday morning, Hicks and Gillet retracted their restraining order, which looked at that time like it would pave the way for John Henry to assume the reins at Liverpool.
However, behind the scenes, Hicks was looking to sell his stake in the club to Millhouse Investment, who would in return raise the necessary funds owed by Hicks and Gillet to the Royal Bank of Scotland. Consequently, the pair would be granted full ownership of Liverpool once more, while rebuffing the New England Sports Ventures bid.
This would mean that Hicks and Gillet would incorporate Millhouse investment as a major stakeholder at Liverpool. If this plan of action proved to be unobtainable, they would have no alternative but to sue Liverpool for £1.6 billion in damages.
But as Liverpool entered its final hours before administration deadlines set in, which included a nine-point penalty, the sale was finally completed to New England Sports Ventures with John Henry the new chief at the club.
For now the soap opera seems to have a happy ending, but with football you never know, as Gillet and Hicks may not go quietly into the night. All that Liverpool fans can do is enjoy what the future has in store for their club, while no doubt treading cautiously in apprehension rather than expectation.