Liverpool close on deal with Thai PM

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The Independent Football

Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire prime minister of Thailand, said yesterday that he is on the verge of taking a 30 per cent stake in Liverpool for around £60m. He expects a formal statement of confirmation from Anfield before the end of the week.

If and when the deal is concluded, the cash injection will partly be used to fund Liverpool's proposed Stanley Park stadium. An undisclosed amount will also be invested in players.

The benefits for Thaksin will be long-term links between Liverpool and Thai football, which will theoretically increase the quality of football in Thailand and reflect well on him. Thaksin hopes financial rewards will also come Thailand's way through increased sales of a range of Thai-made, Liverpool branded goods.

"We've talked about it and that's it," Thaksin said after meeting the Liverpool chief executive, Rick Parry, in Bangkok yesterday. "Now it's just up to Liverpool and then we'll be able to make an announcement."

Parry said: "I've made it very clear in the past that we are actively evaluating a range of different proposals and when the club has something to say about it, then we shall discuss it fully." Thaksin said the deal would see him taking a holding of "around 30 per cent, and the value's more than four billion baht [£55m]. It's not too expensive".

Liverpool's chairman, David Moores, whose family has controlled the club for more than half a century, hinted in January that he might relinquish some of his 51 per cent share. Yet if the deal with Thaksin goes through, he might not dilute his absolute holding, only his percentage. This would mean he would still effectively retain power.

This would happen by Liverpool issuing 15,000 new shares, at £4,000 each, which Thaksin would buy. The money would go straight into the club's coffers rather than Moores' pocket.

The total number of shares would rise from 35,000 to 50,000. Thaksin would own 30 per cent and Moores would own 36 per cent of the enlarged stock. The latter would still be the major shareholder and he would also still be able to rely on Granada's 9.9 per cent and the current other board members' five per cent total to vote with him, which would still virtually ensure him control of the club. If this happens, and Thaksin is effectively given no control, Liverpool seemingly cannot lose from the deal.

Thaksin, estimated to be worth £1bn, saw his family's wealth soar along with a surging Thai stock market last year. The family controls Thailand's largest telecom group, Shin Corp. He said yesterday that a company formed with other Thai private investors to pump money into the club would receive commercial rights to use the Liverpool brand, and that Liverpool would set up an academy in Thailand.

The Liverpool brand would be used to promote goods produced under a Thai government subsidised scheme to inject life into the country's rural economy, Thaksin said. Cashew nuts and silk cushion covers could yet become de rigueur on the Kop.

He was previously interested in investing in Fulham after he met Mohamed Al Fayed last year but turned his attentions to Liverpool in February. In March, Liverpool's board turned down a proposal from property developer (and fan), Steve Morgan, to raise his five per cent stake in the club via a rights issue. Morgan was perceived as being a threat to Moores, as he has long disagreed with him about the way the club is run. Thaksin apparently offers a benign alternative.

Boonchai Mongkolratankorn, the president of Thailand's Liverpool fan club, said all Liverpool fans should be happy that marketing merchandise in Asia should help buy new players. "The Kop is all over the world," he said. "The prime minister shouldn't have anything to do with management of the club but I think he wants a say in buying and selling players."

Such an approach, if true, will not go down well at Anfield. More palatable, perhaps, will the suggestion that Thaksin is only in the deal for economic gain. "I'm not sure if the prime minister is really a Liverpool fan," Boonchai said. "He says he is, but when Man United were here, he said he supported them."