Hicks and Gillett admit Liverpool need new owners

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Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett have admitted Liverpool need a new owner to take them to the "next level" after officially putting the club up for sale.

After months of talk about selling off some of their share to outside investors the pair have decided to bring an end to their tumultuous three-year tenure at Anfield.

With the start of work on a new stadium in Stanley Park still no nearer and a pressing need for a significant investment in manager Rafael Benitez's playing squad to prevent the current disappointing campaign become the norm rather than the exception, Hicks and Gillett have accepted their time is up.

They have appointed businessman Martin Broughton, British Airways chairman and deputy president of the Confederation of British Industry, as Liverpool chairman with a brief to oversee the sale of the club and have asked Barclays Capital to advise on the process.

"Having grown this club this far we have now decided together to look to sell the club to owners committed to take the club through its next level of growth and development," said a joint statement by Hicks and Gillett.

"Martin is a distinguished business leader of excellent judgement and with a great reputation.

"He is a genuine football supporter and will seek to oversee the sales process in the best interests of the club and its supporters."

Putting the whole club up for sale as opposed to just a share is likely to attract significantly more interest as very few potential investors were prepared to enter into a three-way arrangement with Hicks and Gillett.

Since taking over in 2007 the American duo have had a very public fall-out and although their relationship has been repaired somewhat it still did not instil confidence in the business community.

With Liverpool's debt, as a result of Hicks and Gillett's purchase, standing at £237million they were repaying £30million a year just to service their loans with the RBS and Wachovia banks.

Those institutions began to exert considerable pressure on the owners to reduce their liabilities or face the prospect of not being able to continue to refinance their loans, which they had previously done twice.

Managing director Christian Purslow was charged with finding £100million of outside investment before the summer but when a £110million offer for a 40% stake by the New York-based Rhone Group was turned down at Easter it seemed something would have to give.

However, Hicks and Gillett's next hurdle is finding someone willing to pay their asking price.

The Rhone Group's offer would have valued the entire club at about £275million.

Although that was around £55million more than the Americans paid when they took over it was below their current valuation.

But with a new 60,000-capacity stadium costing upwards of £250million and Benitez looking for a transfer kitty of £50million any new owner is going to have to come up with funds of around £600million.

Reports have suggested Syrian businessman Yahya Kirdi, backed by one of the United Arab Emirates' ruling families, is at an advanced stage of negotiations with the Americans.

However, now there is a chance of wholly owning a club with the profile of Liverpool's there are likely to be a number of other interested parties coming forward.

Broughton said he was determined to find new owners who could help the club improve both on and off the pitch.

"Liverpool is a great club with a fantastic history," he said.

"I will run this sale process in the right way, for the benefit of the club and its fans.

"Liverpool is one of the world's greatest clubs and my aim is to try to ensure we find new owners who are able to build on the club's recent improved financial performance in order to help deliver sporting success."

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