Liverpool chairman makes ‘no promises’
Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton says he ‘can’t promise’ John W. Henry’s takeover of the club will go through.
The Boston Red Sox owner has made a bid for the club that has been accepted by a majority of the club’s board, but current owner Tom Hicks is still looking to derail the bid in court.
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.
"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."
The ownership of the club is likely to be decided one way or another by next week, as that is the £237million RBS loan is due to be repaid.
Should Liverpool lose in the High Court to Hicks and Gillett, 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.
Broughton said on Wednesday that 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.
"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."
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."