Soccer

Get Ready for Fight: An Inside Look at Liverpool Sale

| by Ian Palmer

It looks like English Premier League club Liverpool’s next big contest is going to take place off the field as the team’s board agreed to sell the club to the owners of Major League baseball’s Boston Red Sox on Oct. 6.

However, current Liverpool owners, Americans George Gillett Jr. and Tom Hicks are fighting the decision to sell the debt-riddled franchise because they don’t think the bid’s high enough. This may lead to internal legal action within the club, which means forcing Gillett and Hicks out.

The official bid was made by New England Sports Ventures, the group that owns the baseball franchise. But to complicate matters, another bid also came in from a consortium in Asia. But Gillett and Hicks said both offers were unacceptable since they undervalue the club, which has won 18 English league championships.

It was reported that New England Sports Ventures offered close to 300 million pounds (U.S. $477 million) for the team, which is in debt to the tune of about 285 million pounds (U.S. $453 million). The debt must be paid off by Oct. 15, so all business needs to be taken care of quickly.

Liverpool’s board members accepted the offer from the Red Sox owners even though Gillett and Hicks are opposed to it -- and own all the shares in the club. Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton was hired to sell the team and said he’s happy with the offer, but is disappointed Gillett and Hicks are trying to prevent the sale. He suggested legal action will have to be taken to sell the club.

Gillett and Hicks tried to remove a couple of board members before a meeting on Oct. 5 and replace them with Hicks' son as well as one of Hicks’ financial controllers. Hicks said he wants about 600 million pounds for the club, but many potential buyers think that figure’s too high, considering Gillett and Hicks bought the team for just 174 million pounds and took on 44.8 million pounds of debt.

The current owners said they have pumped over U.S. $270 million into the team and have doubled the club’s revenues, making it one of England’s most profitable clubs. They said they’re still looking for a buyer, but want a fair price for it.

On the pitch, Liverpool is off to its worst league start since 1953. They haven’t won in five games and currently sit in the dreaded relegation zone at 18th place.

The ownership group of the Red Sox is led by John Henry, along with Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino. If they do manage to take over the team, it’s believed one of their first orders of business will be to build a new stadium in Liverpool to replace the 45,000-seat Anfield Stadium.

Even though Liverpool’s struggling, Bet365 lists their odds of being relegated at 16-1.