Anfield soap switches to Dallas courtroom for next cliffhanger
Hicks and Gillett's final attempt to stay alive came in a document littered with spelling mistakes
Friday 15 October 2010
It will hardly be a titanic battle of Southfork proportions but the final bout of the infernal domestic drama known as Liverpool Football Club will be staged in a Dallas court house today.
The British QCs who were upstaged late on Wednesday by a city judge's decision to grant Tom Hicks and George Gillett a temporary restraining order, forbidding a sale of the club, wreaked a revenge of sorts yesterday. The club's formidable barrister, Lord Grabiner, described Dallas as that "world-famous jurisdiction" to much laughter when the judge and all the legal teams – with Hicks' lawyers conspicuous by their absence – were hauled back to the High Court yesterday, in an attempt to render Judge James Jordan's ruling invalid.
But there was no getting away from the spoke that Hicks put in the wheels of progress which finally seemed to be moving when the businessman John W Henry swept up for a Liverpool board meeting on Wednesday night, thinking he would witness his coronation as the new proprietor at Anfield.
Judge Jordan, who was preparing to sign the restraining order as Henry got down to business, is not expected by lawyers in Texas to stand defiant in the face of the High Court's verdict that his order should be immediately overturned. Despite the abuse from Liverpool fans that has defaced his Facebook page since he signed off the order, he is a trial judge of 30 years' standing; a Democrat who sets great store by the international legal principle of comity – which states that a verdict granted under one legal jurisdiction must not be undermined in another. But another formal hearing does seem to be necessary for Judge Jordan to strike out the initial order. A few more hours of torture loom for Liverpool and Henry's New England Sports Ventures (NESV), whose £300m deal remains unsigned.
Judge Jordan may be wondering what he let himself in for when Hicks and Gillett rolled up at his courthouse to file their rushed request for the restraining order at noon, Dallas time, on Wednesday – seven hours after the High Court had effectively freed Liverpool's directors to sell up. It took two and half hours for him to pore over their case which, when typed up in its final format, was littered with spelling mistakes. Gillett appears as Gillette. Liverpool's commercial director, Ian Ayre, is "Ayer".
The judge's hand-written notes on the final restraining order illustrate his own unease at being unable to hear Liverpool's side of the story before granting it. The word "solely" is scribbled by him on the document 16 times, indicating that the complaints the pair make against the club are "based solely" on their own allegations. The one-eyed nature of the 29-page document is certainly breathtaking.
As The Independent revealed yesterday, this was a document the Liverpool chairman, Martin Broughton, received a mere five minutes before the board meeting convened to approve Liverpool's sale to NESV. By daybreak yesterday, Broughton and his advisers were still wondering whether Dallas really could upstage the Royal Courts of Justice and an early-morning blog by the BBC's Robert Peston also suggested that Hicks had secretly sold his shares to Mill Financial. Mill was thus in a position to pay off the club's £237m debts to Royal Bank of Scotland (due today) and gazump NESV. The gloom deepened. Even the name of Kenny Huang, the Chinese businessman whose putative move for Liverpool was one of the more colourful fleeting chapters in this whole astonishing saga, popped up in the Liverpool Echo, that paper's unproven suggestion being that Huang was the money man behind a company linked to Mill.
But Hicks' spokesman was on hand within hours to put that story to bed. Hicks had not sold to anyone, he said, and the course was set for yesterday's hearing. In court, Hicks' Texan double-hold gave Lord Grabiner the opportunity to deliver his most bombastic performance of the week. The QC declared it to be "preposterous" that Hicks and Gillett had gone to a legal jurisdiction in another country because they were not happy with Mr Justice Floyd's decision to order the reinstatement of the Liverpool board. Hicks and Gillett were probably "sitting and giggling" at their behaviour right now, he surmised. "They want a second bite of the cherry and if it wasn't so serious it would be a joke, grotesque parody, preposterous, unfair. They are just incorrigible."
The judge agreed, so it was back to Texas. A written form of yesterday's High Court judgement – compelling Hicks and Gillett to get that Dallas restraining order lifted by 4pm this afternoon or be in contempt of court – was physically delivered to Hicks' lawyers in London last night. Local lawyers expect another punishing session for the two outgoing Liverpool owners. "Once you've gone cap in hand for a restraining order you have to account for yourselves," said Thomas Kruse of the Baker & Hostetler legal firm. "A ruling from the High Court is one that the judge in Dallas would respect. If it sends a signal to say that the restraining order is inappropriate he would abide by that. We actually feel the judge acted blindly, without full facts, in the first place."
It may not be the most spellbinding Liverpool story, then, but the television satellite vans will be out in force and the circus will move to a new location where a significant episode in the soap opera will unfold. Does another cliffhanger await us? No one dare predict anything where Liverpool are concerned.
For Anfield, read Southfork
J R Ewing played by Tom Hicks
The big, brash, covetous Texan businessman with oil interests and Republican leanings. Driven by profit and profile, he can in turn be charming and persuasive, then cold, ruthless and full of vengeance.
Sue-Ellen played by George Gillett
Long-suffering partner who entered a marriage after a too-short courtship, then repented at length. Flirts with partner's rivals. Not always so self-assured; eccentric to some, batty as a bag of frogs to others.
Miss Ellie played by Martin Broughton
Quieter and more reflective than the rest of the cast, certainly, always preoccupied with trying to get JR and Bobby to get along. Full of homespun truths but not averse to using the courts when necessary.
Bobby Ewing played by Christian Purslow
The handsome good guy, an altruist who wanted to play fair but didn't always manage it. Should have got on with JR but didn't. Liable to leave the shower thinking: "Did I imagine the past year?"
Casting by Nick Harris
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