Broughton expects sale to go through

The boardroom battle between the England-based members of Martin

Broughton, managing director Christian Purslow and commercial

director Ian Ayre on the one side and Tom Hicks and George Gillett

on the other revolves around who has the controlling authority.

Hicks believes the deal to sell the club to New England Sports

Ventures (NESV) for £300million is invalid as, minutes before

the meeting to discuss the offer on Tuesday, he changed the make-up

of the board – removing Purslow and Ayre and replacing them with

his son Mack and Lori McCutcheon, who works for Hicks Holdings.

However, Broughton yesterday said Hicks had “flagrantly abused”

undertakings, given to major creditors Royal Bank of Scotland when

the sale process began, which outlined Broughton as the only man

with the ability to change the composition of the board. As a

result he refused to accept the changes and progressed the board

meeting with neither owner willing to participate and that resulted

in the agreed sale to NESV. But Hicks is determined to fight to the

end and the dispute will be resolved in the High Court early next

week, Press Association Sport understands, and not tomorrow as has

been suggested. “There were no such undertakings given to

Broughton, the board has been legally reconstituted, and the new

board does not approve of this proposed transaction,” Hicks’ New

York-based spokesman Mark Semer told Bloomberg News. Broughton said

the Americans were well aware of his role in the sale process when

the club was first put on the market. “When I took the role it was

because George and Tom recognised the only way to move forward was

to sell the entire club,” he said. “They said if they sold the club

they wouldn’t have credibility, so I was to add credibility to the

process.” The ownership of the club is likely to be decided one way

or another by a week on Friday as that is the date for repayment of

the £237million RBS loan. Should Liverpool lose in the High

Court to Hicks and Gillett, and judging by Broughton’s comments

they feel that is highly unlikely, there is still the option of the

bank – as the major creditors – calling in their debt and forcing

the sale through to any party they feel meets their requirements.

Realistically that means NESV would still end up as the new owners,

just by a slightly different process. “NESV has been in serious

discussion with us for some weeks, we’ve been to see them in

Boston, London and Liverpool,” said Broughton. “They’ve done their

due diligence and they’ve recognised October 15 is the deadline to

get their bid in. “They could have put [their bid] in on October 14

to pressure the bank, but they’ve chosen to do it now. “RBS has

played a big role in this, working alongside us. “I am confident we

will prevail, but you can never be 100% when you go to court. “We

will be seeking a judgment that we acted within our rights. They

tried to remove Ian and Christian, and after taking legal advice I

told them that was invalid. “I think we’ll get there, but I can’t

make a promise. “If the case goes against us, we do have a fallback

position, but we’re not prepared to discuss this at present.” If

the NESV deal goes through, Hicks and Gillett stand to lose

£144million as the bid will only pay off the debt used to

acquire the club in March 2007, about £200million of which is

owed to RBS. It is for that reason the Americans are putting up

major opposition as they want a higher purchase price to lessen or

even cancel out their losses. But Broughton believes his stance is

based on a firm legal footing. “I’ve not spoken to Tom Hicks since

Tuesday’s board meeting, but he has been understandably

disappointed,” he told the Liverpool Echo. “Our collective

objective was to find the right buyer – not necessarily the highest

bidder. “There was no minimum price. I made it clear this was a

willing buyer/willing seller process.” Liverpool manager Roy

Hodgson has welcomed news of the sale. “It’s very positive and of

course I’m delighted,” he said. “It’s been going on a long time and

I know how hard the board have worked to set things up. “I know

it’s not easy for them because the owners have other ideas in terms

of the sale of the club and what is achievable. “But I was

delighted to hear the news and have it confirmed that it looks like

it is going to go through.”