NESV claim binding Liverpool agreement

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Liverpool are poised for new American owners as John Henry claims to have "a binding agreement" with regard to the sale of the club.

But on a dramatic day, Henry's main rival, the Singapore billionaire businessman Peter Lim, has urged the Liverpool board to consider his improved bid which was lodged yesterday.

The battle for control, which follows an overwhelming victory in the High Court for creditors Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Liverpool against current owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, may be a short affair if Henry's New England Sports Ventures (NESV) already have a signed and sealed deal.

However, Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton has admitted the need to "take legal advice" as to whether he has a duty to consider the increased offer from Lim that stands at £320million, an improvement of £20million on that from NESV.

In a statement from NESV, however, Henry maintains his £300million bid is legally the only one on the table that has credence.

"NESV welcomes today's High Court judgment, which is a huge step forward for Liverpool FC," said Henry.

"NESV has a binding agreement in place with the board of Liverpool FC and we are looking forward to concluding the deal.

"We are ready to move quickly and help create the stability and certainty which the club needs at this time.

"It is time to return the focus to the club itself and performances on the pitch."

While few would dispute Henry's sentiments, Lim will be reluctant to go away, particularly if Broughton discovers he has a legal obligation to explore the renewed offer further.

Like Henry, Lim also welcomed the decision of the court, stating: "The way is now clear for the board to sell the club.

"I have delivered my offer to the board and believe my ownership represents the best option for the future of the club and it's supporters.

"I hope that when the board is reconstituted tonight that it will not simply ratify a sale to NESV, but will consider all the offers before them.

"I am asking the board to run a full and fair process that enables all of the offers to be considered on their merits before the future of the club is decided."

The apparent tug of war between Henry and Lim comes after a ruling by Mr Justice Floyd against Hicks and Gillett and in favour of RBS.

The bank had accused the Americans of breaching the terms of their financing by seeking to change the board last week.

Hicks attempted to block the deal with NESV, who own Major League Baseball side Boston Red Sox, by removing managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre from the board of Liverpool FC.

Hicks then installed his son Mack and a business associate, Lori McCutcheon, in order to control board voting ahead of a meeting to decide on which bid to accept for the sale of the club.

However, this compromised the agreement the Americans signed with RBS when the bank extended its credit facilities.

The RBS loan, that amounts to £237million, ends on Friday, with the bank applying to the court for an injunction to allow the sale to go ahead in order to recoup its money.

By order of Mr Justice Floyd, Broughton now has until 8pm tonight to reconstitute the board, which will result in the reinstatement of Purslow and Ayre.

Following which the NESV deal is expected to be ratified, despite Lim's declaration his offer deserves further consideration.

NESV's expected takeover will stick in the craw of Hicks and Gillett, who Broughton believes will be in attendance, despite today's shattering result that effectively ends their three-and-a-half-year tenure in charge.

Speaking this afternoon, Broughton certainly indicated a deal had already been done because, speaking in the past tense, he said: "We've been here to complete a sale process.

"We said right from the offset that we would find the right owners for Liverpool, and that was our target. I think we've done that.

"We were very fortunate we had two bidders, both of whom qualified as far as we were concerned for being the right owners.

"We had to choose between them and I think Liverpool Football Club can look forward to a great future with its new owners."

Mercifully for Liverpool, they stand on the verge of being debt free for the first time since Hicks and Gillett took control at Anfield.

Broughton, appointed as chairman in April to oversee the club's sale, added: "The vital thing is all of the offers have wiped out all of the acquisition debt which puts the club on a sound financial footing, and that was the single most important thing."

Asked for his opinion of Hicks and Gillett, Broughton said: "I'm disappointed they've acted in this way to try and breach the undertakings they gave me.

"Up until then they'd supported the process.

"So we are delighted with the result. We feel justice has been done. That's what we came for and that's what we got."

Those remarks were echoed by RBS in a statement which read: "Today's judgment vindicates the actions RBS has taken to ensure that decisions concerning the future of Liverpool Football Club are made by a properly constituted board acting in the club's best interests.

"RBS has every confidence that having been put on a proper footing, the board will now reach appropriate decisions regarding the next steps."

Posting a message on his Twitter page, Henry also expressed his delight at the outcome.

"Well done Martin, Christian & Ian. Well done RBS. Well done supporters," exclaimed Henry.

Paul Girolami QC, lawyer for Hicks and Gillett, offered no comment, while a leading sports lawyer, Andrew Nixon, confirmed it to be "the end of the road for them".

A statement on Liverpool's website underlined the club's position as it read: "We are delighted the court has clarified the issue of board composition and has removed the uncertainty around the sale process.

"We will now be consulting with our lawyers and planning for a board meeting tonight. A further statement will be made in due course."

Comments