Liverpool kicks off talks on three-way takeover battle

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The Independent Online

The board of Liverpool Football Club is to meet on Thursday to decide on the future ownership of the Premier League giant.

It is believed that US billionaire George Gillett, the owner of the Montreal Canadians ice hockey club, is in pole position to buy the club.

However, the board of Liverpool will also discuss rival offers from Dubai International Capital (DIC), the private equity arm of the Arab state, and John Miskelly, the Belfast-based property millionaire.

It is believed that NM Roths- child, the investment bank, is advising Mr Gillett, while JPMorgan is advising DIC.

Both banks have a history in football club takeovers. Roths- childs advised Malcolm Glazer, the US sports tycoon, on his takeover of Manchester United, while JPMorgan provided the financing for the controversial deal. PricewaterhouseCoopers is advising Liverpool.

It is believed that Mr Gillett will offer around £250m for Liverpool. He will put £150m on the table for the club's shares and also take on board its debt, which is approaching £100m. He will also provide a commitment to funding the construction of Liverpool's proposed new £200m, 60,000-seater stadium in the city's Stanley Park area.

Mr Gillett will part-fund the deal by raising a substantial amount of debt. However, he will not securitise the loans, which are expected to total tens of millions of pounds, on assets such as the club's Anfield ground and future ticket revenues.

That may not appease Liverpool fans, who will be alarmed that the club is racking up even more debt.

As well as his ice hockey franchise, Mr Gillett owns a media company and is the one of the largest producers of "chicken products" in the US. He also owns six ski resorts in the US, several golf courses, car dealerships in Colarado and a landscape and garden company. He travels by private jet and is thought to be worth well over $1bn.

Liverpool have been holding talks with potential investors for over two years. But negotiations with numerous suitors have repeatedly stalled.

It is believed that the club's chairman, David Moores, who has a 51 per cent stake in Liverpool, had placed an enterprise value on the club of £300m - a price which has proved a stumbling block to talks.

However, it now looks as if he has been persuaded to reduce his asking price.

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