Liverpool await High Court verdict

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The Independent Football

The battle over the future ownership of Liverpool could be decided tomorrow by a High Court judge.

Mr Justice Floyd said he would adjourn his ruling after a day of courtroom clashes between the American owners, club directors and its major creditor, the Royal Bank of Scotland.

RBS lawyers accused owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett of changing the running of the club to "frustrate" its sale this Friday.

Paul Girolami QC, representing the American owners, said his clients "were not trying to throw a spanner in the works" of the proposed sale deal.

He said there had been other offers for the club which potentially were better than the one wrongly approved by the board.

Richard Snowden QC, representing RBS, said the American owners now admitted "a calculated breach of contract" by seeking to change the constitution of the football companies controlling the club and the boards involved without the consent of the bank.

He said this was "to frustrate the sale necessary to repay the bank £200 million by this Friday".

The bank secured an injunction on Friday to prevent the Americans sacking independent chairman Martin Broughton or any other board members.

Mr Snowden said Mr Hicks filed evidence that if RBS did not like what he was doing, then it could enforce its security rights.

"This would derail the carefully planned process designed to achieve a sale of the club in a timely manner."

He said that plan would not carry the risk of Liverpool losing the nine points deducted by the Premier League when a team goes into administration.

The judge was asked to impose injunctions on the owners requiring them to restore the original constitutions of the companies and managing directors.

This would remove the final stumbling block to a £300million takeover by New England Sports Ventures (NESV), which will see the RBS recoup its original £237million loan to Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett when they bought the club in March 2007.

The bank say that when the American owners renegotiated an extension to the refinancing to allow a sale to be completed, they agreed that Mr Broughton could come in alongside managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre.

This gave them a three-to-two majority to prevent the Americans blocking any sale they did not feel was in their interests.

It was also made clear that Mr Broughton was the only person who could change board members, so when Mr Hicks tried to sack the English directors last week on the eve of the meeting to approve the NESV bid, the chairman rejected the move.

Mr Snowden said evidence filed to the court showed "breathtaking arrogance on the part of Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett".

Mr Girolami, opposing an immediate injunction, said all the issues involved needed more time to determine and "should not be rushed into".

"What has happened is that the English directors have gone forward with the NESV bid without properly considering alternatives when those alternatives at least appear to give better prospects."

Lord Grabiner QC, representing the Liverpool football club companies, said his clients were supporting the RBS application and wanted to see the issues resolved by the end of this week.

He told the judge: "No court stops a board from acting as it sees fit in the best interests of the company."

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