DIC to seal £400m deal for Liverpool in 'three to four weeks'

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The Independent Online

The long pursuit of Liverpool by Dubai International Capital is set to end within the next "three to four weeks" with the investment group taking full control of the Premier League club, according to a source close to the proposed deal.

DIC is understood to be confident that it will finally buy the club for £400m – and is looking to involve a "third party" investor, who would take a minority stake, as part of its business plan. The company is believed to already have an agreement in place with the club's co-owner George Gillett Jnr to buy his share. It is also confident that Tom Hicks, who owns the other 50 per cent, is now close to agreeing to sell to them even though he cut off negotiations earlier this month insisting he would not sell even a minority stake. Hicks also said he would block any attempt by Gillett to sell.

Although DIC, which is the private equity investment arm of the Dubai government, realises it is paying a high price for Liverpool – Gillett and Hicks bought the club for £219m 13 months ago – such is its determination to succeed that it wants to push ahead. "It's not a cheap deal and Hicks is holding out but there is confidence that it will now finally happen," a source said. Matters have not been helped by the strained relationship between the two Americans.

DIC, whose chief executive Sameer Al-Ansari is a life-long fan of the club and who will join the board, has ambitious plans which could include involving some of its other investment vehicles in an attempt to raise its profile. The hotel group Jumeirah could be used as part of the development of a new stadium. A wide-ranging review of the club, and its revenue streams, will be conducted.

DIC came close to buying Liverpool before the Americans' acquisition and has tried to resume negotiations, on and off, ever since. The reason for the apparent confidence now could be that several of Hicks' loans are due for refinancing within two or three months. This may be the trigger for his main lender – believed to be JP Morgan – to force him back into talks with DIC and accept its offer for Liverpool.

The full level of the Texan's debt is unclear. But DIC sources believe he has been hit badly by the state of the financial markets in the United States, which has seen the value of assets which he has borrowed heavily against drop – in some cases by between 30 and 50 per cent. Were Hicks unable to refinance loans when, at a time of severe anxiety among financial institutions, they are due, JP Morgan could take over the assets Hicks has borrowed against or force a sale. Since bankers would tend to sell on such assets anyway the presence of a prospective buyer like DIC would be attractive to them.

Given how far apart DIC and Hicks seem to be, it would appear that any chance of the Arab consortium having a future role at Anfield would be through a complete takeover, with or without a junior partner.

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