Spaniard seeks Anfield stake

Liverpool chairman in talks with ex-Telefonica chief
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The Independent Online

Liverpool could become the latest football club to succumb to foreign ownership if talks between chairman David Moores and the flamboyant former president of Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica come off.

Juan Villalonga, who quit the owner of Arsenal sponsor O 2 in 2000, is understood to be seeking a substantial stake in the Premier League club. According to reports in Spain, he is being advised by Rothschild and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

He is understood to want to increase the value of the club, modernise management and improve its domestic and global focus.

Liverpool, which is managed by the Spaniard Rafael Benitez, is controlled by Littlewoods heir Mr Moores. The club is keen to bring in fresh investment, and chief executive Rick Parry has been in talks with a number of parties recently, including the Thai prime minister and US billionaire Robert Kraft.

However, it is understood that the talks collapsed because Mr Moores was only interested in selling a small stake in the club. Construction millionaire Steve Morgan recently made several acrimonious but unsuccessful attempts to oust Mr Moores.

A Liverpool spokesman declined to comment on the latest set of talks.

During Mr Villalonga's tenure as head of Telefonica, he turned the former monopoly into one of Spain's biggest and most successful multinationals, buying up a number of overseas operators and holding merger discussions with Dutch group KPN Telecom and BT, though neither came to fruition.

But his controversial methods also meant he had a number of detractors. He was criticised for plans to reward executives with millions of share options, and some have claimed that the talks with BT fell apart because he insisted on running any combined company. He left Telefonica, which bought O 2 last year, with a £14m payoff.

His personal life has been equally eventful, and in 1999 he left his wife and their three teenage children for a former Mexican beauty queen.

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