Ian Herbert: Judgment Day ends in a flurry of chatter, chants and cheers

When the owners saw that the sale process was going against them, they set out to renege on their agreement. There is no basis in the case that what they did is justified

It was 10.48am in Court 18 when Christian Purslow, the Liverpool managing director whose Harvard education had surely prepared him for none of this, could finally lean across to his chairman, Martin Broughton, and discreetly shake his hand. He had already hidden two punched fists of triumph under his chin.

Though Slaughter & May solicitors will have offered both men the same legal advice reported by The Independent seven days ago – that George Gillett's and Tom Hicks' legal case was doomed if they really had effectively signed over to Broughton the power to sell the club – you can never count anything out with those two. That's why Purslow admits he did not sleep well on Tuesday night.

He need not have worried. Mr Justice Floyd delivered what by legal standards was a stinging and punishing rebuttal of Hicks' and Gillett's case. The desperation of the Americans' barrister, Paul Girolami QC, while shipping water over in Court 16 on Tuesday afternoon, to argue that his clients had felt hurt and marginalised by the closet efforts of Broughton, Purslow and staff to conclude the sale of the club on the quiet, was writ large in the yellow Post-it notes placed in front of him as he argued his case on the hoof.

The judge was more sure-footed. He used an obscure 40-year-old piece of case law, about a man being locked out of his hotel room and suing the owners, to reach his conclusion that the Americans' perceived grievances should be given no hearing since they had illegally reconstituted the club's board in the first place, to block the £300m sale to New England Sports Ventures (NESV). "Wrongful acts are no passport to favour. We should see that the law is observed," was the legal wisdom that emerged from that particular case.

The sport of football seemed almost tangential to these proceedings – Liverpool "is an English Premier League football club," the judge intoned after the bustle of the packed chamber stilled at 10.03am and he began to speak. But the footballing consequences of the current owners' attempt to filibuster the NESV deal into a position where the club's £237m debts are due and it risks administration, were not lost on him. "An event of this kind would result in nine points being deducted. There's no doubt that such an event would have a very serious effect on the value of the club," the judge declared. The Americans' final act of desperation was to try to delay a board meeting until today. It must be no later than 8pm last night, the judge declared.

The "high point" of the owners' case, he added, was their assertion that they had been excluded from the most thoroughly analysed Liverpool board meetings of all time which, minus Hicks and Gillett but including the two directors they had just sacked to stop them voting for NESV, gave the Boston Red Sox owners the green light last Tuesday. Hicks and Gillett "would have been able to take part in the meeting," the judge said.

He added: "They ceased of their own volition to take any part. The owners have released absolute control of the sale process, which they are now seeking to regain. When they saw that the process was going against them, they set out to renege on their agreement. There is no basis in the case that what they did is justified."

And that was pretty much that, save for what Hicks and Gillett will probably have considered the unkindest cut of all: the closing debate over what court costs they should pay and how much leeway they should be given before signing undertakings to reinstate the directors they illegally suspended, namely Purslow and the commercial director Ian Ayre.

Might the six-hour time lag between London and Dallas be taken into account, the judge initially pondered? "Well, they may well be up early," replied barrister Richard Snowden, to general hilarity. The pair must pay only standard 66 per cent damages, not the 100 per cent indemnity damages charged to defendants adjudged to have had no genuine case to make. But some of that money, for which they are personally liable, must go to NESV and that will sting.

The dear-departed Americans were barely in the ground, incidentally, before those new ones popped up, via a John W Henry tweet from the United States. "Well done Martin, Christian and Ian," he said, "Well done RBS. Well done supporters!"

And so, barring a late appeal, Liverpool's relationship with the Americans they took to heart and grew to abhor is over. Lord Grabiner, Liverpool's QC who has rather stolen the show this week, left court to cheers, receiving them like a footballer might. By the time Broughton and Purslow had battled through the scrum, made a brief statement outside court and marched off down The Strand, the chants of "We love you Martin, we do" and "One Christian Purslow" were echoing after them.

Given the abuse Purslow has endured in some quarters on the rocky road to salvation, that was a surreal scene – but one rapidly eclipsed by the sight of some utterly baffled Japanese tourists, who busily snapped the scene with their phones and cameras after their open-top bus slowed down. Such is the crazy world of Liverpool, now swinging into another unpredictable chapter.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific