Hicks tries to mend fences after his son is forced out

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The Independent Online

The Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks last night attempted to repair some of the damage done by his son's obscene email to a fan when he insisted Liverpool's spending in the summer transfer window would be "big" and made a jibe at Manchester United for the levels of debt they are carrying.

Tom Hicks Jnr resigned from the board after his email to a fan was leaked but his father went one step further in his own email. "Our debt is very manageable [see Man U]," the co-owner wrote. "We never use player sales for debt service. Our interest on £200m is about £16m. The new stadium will be the game changer. [New chief executive] Christian [Purslow] is working very hard on it. Jan[uary] is a poor quality market. The summer window will be big."

Liverpool fans will not take unanimous encouragement from Hicks' words, considering that Purslow is aiming to raise £100m by seeking new equity partners to take 25 per cent of the club. This money is vital to the creation of the new stadium.

Hicks' replacement for his son is Casey Coffman, a businessman he knows and the executive vice-president of Hicks Holdings. Ian Ayre and Philip Nash, Liverpool's commercial and finance directors, have also been appointed to the board, in accordance with a decision ratified last month.

A regular in the Anfield directors' box and often his father's proxy on club matters, Hicks Jnr said: "I have great respect for Liverpool football club, especially the club's supporters. I apologise for my mistake and I am very sorry for my harmful words. I do not want my actions to take away from the club's future, therefore I am resigning from the board. To the fans and to the club, please accept my sincerest apologies."

But his offending line will surely take its place in the sporting quotations pantheon. Having first dismissed the fan, Stephen Horner, as an "idiot", Hicks Jnr sent him an email saying: "Blow Me, Fuckface. Go to hell. I'm sick of you."

The email found its way to a Sunday newspaper, which printed it at the weekend. The Spirit of Shankly fans' group, which campaigns against the American ownership, seized upon it. With an energy that even the Americans' expensive PR firm Freud Communications could not head off, Liverpool fans mobilised via the internet to petition for Hicks Jnr's resignation.

Having won this particular battle, the fans groups was given a reminder of just how long the war against the ownership was likely to be with the club announcing that another Hicks ally, in Coffman, would take Hicks Jnr's place on the board.

The embarrassing spat for the owners does not change Liverpool's underlying financial predicament. They were forced to pay £36.5m in interest charges alone last season and, with the possibility of failure to qualify for the Champions League looming, that situation could get worse. It is understood the manager, Rafael Benitez, is now against selling Ryan Babel to Birmingham for around £10m because he is not convinced that he will be able to spend the proceeds of the sale.

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