Liverpool owners admit to search for new investors

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The Independent Football

Liverpool's co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett were forced to admit publicly yesterday that they are looking for new investors, after the Saudi prince who was entertained at Anfield on Saturday revealed the nature of their discussions.

Though Hicks and Gillett have had putative discussions with Dubai International Capital, in 2008, and Kuwaitis last year, suggestions by associates of Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah al-Saud that a price for Gillett's 50 per cent share of the club was under negotiation, led to the Americans confirming the search for new partners.

"The owners have jointly retained Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Rothschild to evaluate the possibility of new investors injecting equity into LFC," their statement said. "However, the process is at an early stage; there is no agreement with any party." There is a difference between seeking investors and agreeing terms with them. Hicks, for example, said after a meeting with Dubai International Capital's chief executive, Sameer Al Ansari 18 months ago: "It depends on what their true intentions are. Are they willing to accept a position as a passive, minority investor, or do they want more than that? If they want more, they're not going to be involved."

In a TV interview the prince gave in Saudi Arabia on Monday, he said: "It's clear to everyone that there is a kind of misunderstanding between Gillett and Hicks but we won't go into that. We are not there to pacify between them." He also reiterated his desire to take a share in Liverpool. "We have reached an advanced stage with them. In this deal for us it's not just about how many shares we acquire – 30, 40 or 50 per cent. What's important for us is the setting up of academies – to have strong strategic links to transfer [Liverpool's] experience to the Middle East and North Africa."

Gillett and Liverpool's managing director, Christian Purslow, will visit Saudi Arabia to hold a further week of talks, from 12 October, though Gillett's discussions with a prospective Indian investor in London earlier this week could have greater significance.

The prince said he would look to other clubs if partnership plans with Liverpool came to nothing. The Hicks camp suggests he is seeking only minority investors to help pay off some of the club's substantial debt.

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