Red Sox group set for takeover of Liverpool team
Whatever you do, Liverpool fans, don’t call your prospective new
American owners the Yankees.
The owners of the Boston Red Sox are trying to buy the
financially ailing Liverpool football club for 300 million pounds
($477 million) – about half the asking price of the current
If approved, it would unite two of the most successful
franchises in sports – the Reds, one of the most decorated teams in
old England, and the baseball Red Sox, the oldest pro team in New
They have a lot in common.
Both have red uniforms – in fact, Liverpool players also wear
red socks – and both have a proud heritage that includes
championships and long periods of agonizing failure.
Each has its iconic symbols: from Fenway Park to Anfield; from
the Green Monster to the Shankly Gates; from ”Sweet Caroline” to
”You’ll Never Walk Alone”; from the Citgo sign to the ”This is
The Red Sox also had the Curse of the Bambino – the sale of
slugger Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees – that was finally
snapped when they won the World Series in 2004 after a wait of 86
years. They won the title again in 2007.
Liverpool fans hope John Henry’s New England Sports Ventures can
spark a similar revival of their debt-riddled club, which has
fallen on hard times since winning its 18th and last English league
title in 1990. Liverpool is off to its worst start since 1953 and
is in the relegation zone after losing last week to Blackpool.
As major port cities, Boston and Liverpool also share a rich
history and strong Irish links. After the famine in Ireland in the
mid-19th century, many Irish headed for the thriving port of
Liverpool, and from there sailed to Boston. By 1851, it was
estimated that a quarter of the populations of both cities was
For all that, though, the Red Sox owners might not be so fab in
the home of the Beatles. Liverpool fans were already angry that the
team was owned by two other Americans, Tom Hicks and George Gillett
Jr., and now comes another U.S. group intending to take
”These Yanks are making us look like a laughingstock in the
Premier League and in Europe,” said Paul Tremarco, a season-ticket
holder for 35 years. ”We don’t trust the Yanks anymore. They just
Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton said he understood the
”instant reaction about them being American. But being American is
not a problem. Leveraged ownership of a football club is the
Serious financial issues have to be settled to conclude the long
and bitter boardroom battle over the club.
The Boston ownership group is headed by Henry, a financial
trader, with two other principals: Tom Werner, who made his money
producing hit TV shows such as ”The Cosby Show” and ”Roseanne,”
and Larry Lucchino, a longtime baseball executive.
The New York Times Co., parent of the newspaper, is among the
investors in the Red Sox ownership group. The Times said last year
it was trying to sell its shares. In April, the Times announced it
had sold a small portion of its NESV ownership stake.
The Red Sox owners’ offer is only likely to cover the debts and
bank charges stemming from the leveraged 2007 takeover by Hicks and
Gillett. They are fighting the NESV bid, saying it ”dramatically
undervalues” the club. Hicks wants to sell for about 600 million
Rival members of the Liverpool board, which accepted the Boston
bid, are set to go to court to force the sale through before the
Oct. 15 deadline set by the banks to repay the club’s debt.
Liverpool is one of four Premier League clubs under American
ownership, along with Manchester United, Aston Villa and
Sunderland. Most prominent are Malcolm Glazer and his sons, owners
of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who took over Manchester United in
2005 in a leveraged buyout worth $1.4 billion. The Glazers are
deeply unpopular among United fans, with groups of supporters
regularly protesting and calling for their ouster.
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber said the Red Sox
owners know how to take a franchise forward.
”There is something called the Red Sox Nation, a brand
supported by fans going back generations, similar to Liverpool
supporters,” he said. ”The ownership has not only graced that but
Liverpool fans will need to be convinced.
”It’ll still be important that these people come out and engage
with supporters and tell us what their intentions are,” said James
McKenna, spokesman for the Spirit of Shankly, a fan group named
after Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, who won three league titles,
two FA Cups and the UEFA Cup from 1959-1974.
AP Sports writers Rob Harris in London and Steve Douglas in
Liverpool, England, contributed to this report.