Kenny Huang, the Hong Kong businessman who led the first and arguably most credible bid to take over Liverpool, last night ended his interest in the club.
Huang gave no reason for pulling out, although his valuation of Liverpool at £325m is well below the figure owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett would want to cede control.
Huang had become frustrated at the slow pace of negotiations with chairman, Martin Broughton, and had engaged the former Chelsea and Manchester United chief executive, Peter Kenyon, to lead talks with the board.
Negotiations had, however, not been helped by a comment from Huang's consultant, Marc Ganis, that: "What is not one of our goals is the enrichment of the current owners." Ganis left the consortium shortly afterwards.
However, sources close to Liverpool said Huang had been slow to produce evidence of financial backing for the bid that was to be made through his QSL Sports Group and that they had a duty to examine every offer for a club that was £351.4m in debt when it was put up for sale in April. Unless £237m of that debt is repaid to the Royal Bank of Scotland by 6 October, the bank will invoke a £60m penalty clause.
Huang's strategy, which was based on expanding the club brand in Asia while offering manager Roy Hodgson substantial transfer funds, was popular with some sections of the club's fan base and tentative contacts had been made with the Spirit of Shankly group. However, his bid ran into difficulties when he refused to say whether it was backed by the Chinese government.
Huang said in a statement last night: "Over the past few months we learned first hand that Liverpool has a very special place in the hearts of millions of fans around the world. We concluded that a plan that properly capitalises the business and provides funds for a new stadium and player-related costs would allow Liverpool to provide its great fans with the success they deserve. Our strategy and unique ability to expand the fan base in Asia would have been of benefit to all. We regret we will not have the opportunity to implement this strategy."
The spotlight will now fall on the bid led by Syrian entrepreneur, Yahya Kirdi. The former footballer, who is based in Canada and is close to Gillett, has been accused of being merely a front for the existing owners whose intervention is designed to drive up the club's price.