Morgan ends takeover bid as Liverpool look abroad

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The Independent Football

The prospect of Liverpool being financially rescued by a Liverpudlian ended yesterday when Steve Morgan abandoned his attempt to take control of the club.

After receiving no response to his proposed £70m investment eight months after it was first put forward, the property developer withdrew his offer. The search for the investment that would allow Liverpool to compete directly with Manchester United and satisfy Steven Gerrard's ambitions at Anfield will now be concentrated abroad.

Liverpool's board, led by their chief executive Rick Parry, showed consistently little enthusiasm for Morgan, partly because he was a persistent critic of the chairman and majority shareholder, David Moores, but mainly because he would have wanted control of Anfield. The controversial and unsuccessful flirtation with the Thai prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, and a later offer from the Bangkok-based businessman, Paiboon Damrongchaitham, which the latter claims is still on the table, would have substantially maintained the status quo.

Despite its obvious appeal to ordinary Liverpool fans and Morgan's insistence that the entire £70m would be put at the disposal of a club which last year lost a record £21.9m, Parry played down the Morgan deal at last month's annual general meeting.

He claimed that the club had to consider a "new and exciting" offer from the United States "that could transform the club". As yet no firm details of this offer have been made public, while there is also a proposal from Mike Jefferies, a Los Angeles-based film producer who claims to have substantial backing from inside the world of gridiron football. At the annual meeting Morgan's wife, Didy, made an impassioned plea to the board to end a stand-off that she described as "intolerable". The family wanted an answer by Christmas and their self-imposed deadline was reached yesterday.

Should nothing come of the approaches from Bangkok and Los Angeles, Morgan may revive his plan but his lawyer, Vincent Fairclough, stressed that it would have to be at Liverpool's instigation. "As far as Steve's concerned, that's it," he said. "He might be prepared to reconsider but the call would have to come from Liverpool. They would have to initiate it. Of course he wanted control. You would not invest £70m in any sort of project without wanting control."

Morgan, who developed Redrow Homes into one of Britain's largest construction companies, will hold on to his five per cent stake in Liverpool that makes him the club's third-largest shareholder. He was shocked when compiling a due diligence survey into Liverpool's finances at the extent to which the cost of the proposed new stadium at Stanley Park had in his view spiralled out of control. The original estimate of £60m has now virtually doubled to a reported £115m.

"It was the stadium that led him to revise his offer," said Fairclough. "Under the terms of the first offer, half of the £70m was to go to buy out existing shareholders but Steve thought that under the circumstances the whole of the investment ought to go directly to the club. A number of shareholders found that unacceptable."

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