Americans promise to ‘stabilise’ Reds

New England Sports Ventures (NESV) said they will remove all

“acquisition debt” from Liverpool – some £200million – if

their takeover is successful. The owners of the Boston Red Sox also

confirmed their £300million bid had been accepted by

Liverpool’s board. Whether it is successful depends on the High

Court’s ruling on a legal challenge by current owners Tom Hicks and

George Gillett, who are facing a £144million loss and are

claiming the board do not have the power to accept the offer

against their wishes. A statement from NESV said: “NESV wants to

create a long-term financially solid foundation for Liverpool FC

and is dedicated to ensuring that the club has the resources to

build for the future, including the removal of all acquisition

debt. “Our objective is to stabilise the club and ultimately return

Liverpool FC to its rightful place in English and European

football, successfully competing for and winning trophies.” NESV

are principally owned by John W Henry and have been credited with

restoring the fortunes of the Boston Red Sox. Their portfolio

includes a successful TV channel, New England Sports Network. The

statement added: “NESV wants to help bring back the culture of

winning to Liverpool FC. “We have a proven track record, shown

clearly with the Boston Red Sox. The team has won two World Series

Championships over the past six years. We will bring the same kind

of openness, passion, dedication and professionalism to Liverpool

FC.” The Premier League have given a huge boost to the takeover by

saying they would be ready to give the deal the go-ahead as early

as Friday. Hicks and Gillett are claiming the figure of

£300million undervalues the club, although they only bought it

for £219million in 2007 when Liverpool were strongly

positioned in the Premier League and Champions League. NESV are

also committed to tackling the thorny problem of a new stadium, and

recognise that Anfield cannot be kept on in its current state. When

they took over the Red Sox nine years ago they decided against

building a new stadium and instead regenerated the historic Fenway

Park, a decision that has since paid off in revenue terms. They

will need to be convinced that they could not do the same with

Anfield before committing themselves to any completely new stadium.

The takeover deal has been steered through by Liverpool’s

independent chairman Martin Broughton, installed by the Royal Bank

of Scotland as part of their refinancing agreement with Hicks and

Gillett in April. “This is a great day for Liverpool Football Club

and the supporters,” Broughton said. “I can understand why there

might be an instant reaction about them being American. But being

American is not a problem, leveraged ownership of a football club

is the problem. “I just hope we can deliver what we have set out to

do. We have found the right owners. There will be money to invest

in the squad. “If you look at the Boston Red Sox, they have taken a

major traditional team, previously successful but not at their

peak, and resuscitated it to be a winner. “They have been the most

successful team since acquiring the Red Sox in 2001 – there are

parallels with Liverpool.” Broughton said NESV would seriously look

at building a new stadium or possibly redeveloping Anfield. He

added: “There is definitely a commitment to invest in a stadium and

we will finish up with a 60,000-plus seater stadium. “Where they

haven’t finalised their view is whether that should be the new

stadium or whether there are still opportunities to build at

Anfield itself.” Broughton did his best to reassure fans who are

wary that more American owners could lead Liverpool down the same

path Hicks and Gillett did. “This is a very profitable

organisation, it has a substantial number of wealthy investors –

about 17 I think – and it has very little debt in the

organisation,” he said. “I understand the concerns but they are not

[replacing one massive debt] with another one.” The deal will see

Liverpool freed of £200million of debt with £37million of

“external debt” – a typical working overdraft facility – remaining.

It would also mean Hicks and Gillett would lose £144.4million

as the money the Americans themselves put in a holding company

would not be covered by repayments to creditors. That is the reason

the duo have objected to the sale, as they have always sought a

much higher purchase price to allow them to make a profit or at

least break even. Broughton felt by contesting the decision – they

were outvoted three to two on the board – the Americans had lost

their final opportunity to leave Anfield with some dignity. “It is

a great pity they are not going to take the opportunity to be the

good guys and pass over Liverpool to the right owners,” he added.

“That is what they promised to do, what they said all along they

wanted to do, and at the last minute when it does not pay them what

they see as enough they have chosen to fight it. “One last throw of

the dice just to go down in leaving an ever-more negative legacy, I

am disappointed because they won’t achieve it and they will lose

the same amount of money and leave a very bad taste.”