Dubai International Capital claimed late last night that it had struck a deal with Liverpool's two American owners which would see the Arab consortium take a 49 per cent stake in the club, with a view to total ownership in the long run.
Amanda Staveley, DIC's chief negotiator, told The Independent that, after a day of more intense negotiations, the consortium had convinced both Hicks and Gillett that it had the financial means to enable the club to build a new stadium and that it would be purchasing all but 1 per cent of the half share in the club, held by Gillett.
"All parties have now reached agreement, Tom Hicks knows that in the long run we will be 100 per cent owners of the club but we are prepared to play a waiting game," Staveley said. "We will be able to pay the price for the financing of the club and construction of a new stadium."
The price agreed with Gillett is understood to be the one put to his advisers on Tuesday – one which will enable him to walk away with a £40m profit on his investment plus add-ons. Technically, under the terms of pre-emption rights agreement signed by Hicks and Gillett when they bought Liverpool, Hicks has three months from now to buy out Gillett. But it is understood that DIC may seek to buy out Hicks from those rights and enable an immediate deal. There seems to be a good prospect that Hicks will agree. "There is a good understanding between all parties," Staveley said.
The agreement comes at the end of week of high drama in which DIC appear to have succeeded in convincing Gillett, whose interest in the club has been cooling for weeks, that he would not find a better offer than the one put to him before a deadline DIC set for midnight on Tuesday. Hicks and Gillett bought Liverpool for £218.9m in March 2007, and each own 50 per cent of the club.
There have also been suggestions that Gillett has been ill – pneumonia has been mentioned – and therefore unable to attend negotiations on the sale of his shares, though this does not seem to be the case. He was well and discussing the issues with DIC yesterday.
The deal, as outlined by DIC, seems to offer Hicks what he wants – overall control of the club – though DIC's aim on Tuesday seemed to be that Hicks might settle for DIC owning 50 per cent and management control of the club. DIC was at pains to point out that the deal was reached in principle and subject to legal scrutiny.
Sources close to Hicks insisted last night that no deal had been concluded yet. There may be an opportunity for the parties' representatives to meet next week, said the source, within half an hour of speaking to Hicks. The source stressed that there were a number of other potential minority shareholders and that DIC did not represent the only option.