Liverpool confirm new negotiations in quest for big investor

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The Independent Football

Liverpool are continuing to search for new investment to finance Rafael Benitez's ambitions of challenging Chelsea for the Premiership title and their proposed £160m stadium, despite indications from their chairman, David Moores, that he could be about to sell his majority shareholding.

In a statement released to the Stock Exchange yesterday, the European champions confirmed that they have held negotiations with several investors and that an offer could be made for "the entire share capital of the club", currently valued at around £200m.

Liverpool have made no secret of the fact they have been searching for potential backers for over two years, but the revelation that a complete takeover has been discussed raised the prospect that Moores had finally found an investor he is willing to deal with. Such a claim, however, is premature.

Liverpool released the statement only because they were legal obliged to do so by the Takeover Panel, which had noted weekend claims from the Spanish telecommunications multi-millionaire Juan Villalonga that he was leading a consortium armed with a £42m investment package. His proposals, like those of the Liverpool building magnate and club supporter Steve Morgan, the Thai Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, and the media investment group L4, have since been discounted by the Anfield board, which also released similar statements to the Stock Exchange at the time of the reports linking Shinawatra and L4 with the club. "It is a formality, but there has been no change in the situation," confirmed the club's chief executive Rick Parry.

Moores, part of the Littlewoods family dynasty which has controlled Liverpool for over 40 years, has stated that he would not retain his 51 per cent controlling stake merely for sentimental reasons or if it was to the club's detriment. Yet he has resisted all investment attempts so far and his relationship with Morgan, in particular, has developed into a personal feud.

A spokesman for the club's financial advisers PricewaterhouseCoopers said: "The board wants new investment. If that means the chairman selling some of his stake, he would consider it. I don't think he would sell his entire stake - it would depend on the amount of new money, the [share] price and [ownership] structure, and who the parties were."