Hicks and Gillett given just 11 days to accept Chinese bid

Banks set deadline for Liverpool owners to accept deal even if it leaves them in the red
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The Independent Football

Liverpool have 11 days to consider the take-it-or-leave it offer for the club made by the Chinese businessman who says he is backed by sovereign funds, although doubts remain about whether this bid, or one of as many as five others, will be successful, with the club's investment bankers indicating a preferred bid will be selected by next week.

Some critical details of Kenny Huang's bid remain vague, including the precise nature of the Chinese state-owned investment funds which sources close to him claim will deliver the money. It is also unclear whether the trenchant opposition from Liverpool co-owner George Gillett, which is probably shared by his partner at Anfield, Tom Hicks – Huang's bid which could see them make a loss on their initial investment in the club – will prevent the Liverpool board from sanctioning them.

But the club's non-executive chairman Martin Broughton and investment bank Barclays Capital, who are leading the sale of Liverpool, do consider the bid to be credible. Mr Huang has imposed a deadline of Friday-week because he and his backers want enough time to give Roy Hodgson money to spend in the summer transfer market before it closes on 1 September.

It appears Broughton believes he can drive through a deal in the face of opposition from Hicks and Gillett. Having taken up his position on the understanding that a three-man majority on the Liverpool board would be enough to see Hicks and Gillett voted down, it remains unclear whether he has some duty to the Americans who hired him. Broughton, Hicks, Gillett, Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre each have a vote.

The bid, which would see the Chinese guaranteeing the £237m debt built up by the Americans, is certainly a serious one, although Liverpool's owners will bitterly resist a bid which would see them taking nothing from the club, despite their own £130m investment. The fact there are multiple bids under consideration reveals that the end-game has arrived for Hicks and Gillett. Broughton feels his duty is to the club rather than the owners and will not necessarily go for the highest offer, as the sale of the club to owners who ultimately prove unreliable would damage his reputation. It remains unclear whether Broughton, who will leave when a sale is completed, will be rewarded financially by the Americans for the size of the bid he agrees to.

The club's bankers, Royal Bank of Scotland, have said they are not in direct negotiations with Huang over the purchase of the club and that any bid would be referred to Liverpool, though Huang's representatives suggested that he had bypassed the Liverpool bidding process by going directly to the bank with what for Hicks and Gillett is effectively a hostile bid. In a day of denial and counter-denial, it emerged that it is a contest which is under way to become the club's preferred bidder, rather than a one-horse race for Mr Huang. Mystery surrounds the Chinese businessman's track record. He did not, as has been suggested, take a share in the Cleveland Cavaliers National Basketball Association last year.

But his representatives said he was keen to do a deal quickly to secure investment before the transfer window closes and then turn his attention to finally getting Liverpool's new 60,000-seat stadium built in Stanley Park after three years of inertia. "He wants to get it done quickly so investment can come this summer," said a source close to the bid. "Liverpool need investment in the playing squad and infrastructure and Huang wants to build the stadium. The club has an outstanding reputation but does not have the infrastructure to keep with it."

Whether or not Huang's bid proves successful, the timing of his disclosures has certainly been effective, providing a sense of movement on the ownership stalemate on the very day Fernando Torres returned to training following his summer break. Torres declared last season that Liverpool need 'four or five' new players and the movement at the club suggests there may be funds available. Securing a deal before the transfer window closes may not be straightforward, though, as the time between agreement to an individual offer and completion can be weeks.

THE BUYING GAME: ANFIELD'S MANY SUITORS SO FAR

Since Tom Hicks and George Gillett took over in February 2007, the club has attracted a succession of uber-wealthy – and exotic – parties from around the globe reported to be interested in buying out the unpopular American duo. There are six bids on the Anfield table now, but among those who have been said to be keen on a takeover in the past are:

The Indian billionaires

It was in February that Mukesh Ambani, the seventh richest man in the world, and Subrata Roy, chairman of the Sahara group, a huge Indian conglomerate, were said to be mounting a joint bid to takeover 51 per cent of the club. A day later a spokesperson for Ambani's Reliance Industries said: "There is no truth to the report. We deny it completely."



The IPL owner

Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao was already the owner of a cricket team – the Delhi Daredevils of the Indian Premier League – and was said to be interested in getting involved in football. As a Liverpool fan, Anfield was flagged up as the object of his investment. His representatives watched the 4-4 draw with Arsenal in April amid speculation of a £500m takeover that came to nothing at the time.



The Chinese gaming tycoon

In May Zhu Jun held at least two meetings with Barclays Capital, the company charged with finding a buyer. Zhu already owns the Chinese club, Shanghai Shenhua. The 44-year-old made his fortune through online gaming although he is not in the same financial league as most of the other reported buyers and would have needed to conduct a leveraged buyout.



The Syrian footballer

Over the weekend it was claimed that Yahya Kirdi, a former Syrian international, was heading a consortium of Arab businessmen looking to buy out the Americans. Gillett informed Royal Bank of Scotland of Kirdi's interest – he is a friend of Gillett's son, Foster – in a move that has widely been dismissed as a stalling tactic against Huang's approach to RBS.



The Arabs

Dubai International Capital have long held an interest in taking control at Anfield. Even before Hicks and Gillett's ill-fated tenure began three years ago, DIC, the investment arm of Dubai's ruling family led by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, were linked with the club. They have maintained their interest on and off ever since and there have been reports this summer that they are back in the game. In 2008 Sheikh Mohammed had even considered making his own bid for the club.

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