The battle for the hearts and minds of Liverpool supporters has begun in earnest after the Chinese investors seeking to buy the club outlined a series of pledges aimed at underpinning a long-term Anfield revival.
The charm offensive came as Kenny Huang and his backers drew up plans to submit a bid of about £400 million to speed up the sale process and offer owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks the chance to save face.
Huang, chairman of QSL Sports Limited, has outlined ambitious proposals through an intermediary to run Liverpool debt free, expand the club’s fan base and commercial activities in Asia and invest heavily in manager Roy Hodgson’s squad – the only high-profile arrivals this summer, Milan Jovanovic and Joe Cole, having joined the club on free transfers.
There is also a promise to kick-start the much-delayed plans for a move to nearby Stanley Park.
The plans will only come to fruition if Huang’s consortium take control of Liverpool and they also insisted yesterday they are not interested in lining the pockets of Hicks and Gillett.
But, after previously pitching an opening gambit of about £350m, which would only cover the club’s debts, it is understood they are ready to up the ante.
The interest of Huang is understood to have won support from Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton, managing director Christian Purslow and director Ian Ayre. They hold the majority on the five-man Liverpool board that was created in March and which saw management control pass from Gillett and Hicks.
In effect, that means the Americans can be out-voted on what happens to the club they still own, although in that event it is possible they would consider a legal challenge which would further drag out the ownership saga.
That is why Huang’s consortium are ready to up their formal proposal to about £400m and offer Gillett and Hicks a small profit on their troubled three-year tenure.
It would still be some way short of the £500m Dubai International Capital offered in March 2008 and nowhere near the huge sum Hicks has previously spoken about when valuing Liverpool at between £600-£800m.
Marc Ganis, whose Chicago-based company Sportscorp Ltd has helped form the Chinese investment group, said: “If anybody wants to [pay that figure], good luck.
“We know what we would be prepared to do. If somebody else wants to look at it in a different way, it’s their money. That would be their business, not ours.
“What is not one of our goals is the enrichment of the existing owners. If we submit a proposal and it is accepted, it would be focused on the future and not the past.”
Liverpool wants all interested parties to submit legally binding proposals, containing proof of funding, in an effort to accelerate the sale.
That will put pressure on Syrian businessman Yahya Kirdi – whose son has been training at Liverpool’s academy – to reveal where his money is coming from and make good claims he is close to a deal having spoken directly with Gillett and Hicks.
Huang has contacted Liverpool officials and the Premier League, which must be notified of any change of ownership 10 days before it happens.
“We haven’t submitted a formal proposal but we submitted the broad parameters of what a proposal would look like to see if it would be welcomed, and it was,” said Ganis.
Details of who is backing the Chinese bid have, however, emerged.
QSL is headed by Huang and Guang Yang, executive vice-president of Franklin Templeton Investments and chief investment officer of the China Life/Franklin Templeton Fund. They would be the only owners involved in the management of the Liverpool.
Other investors – potentially including the China Investment Corporation – would be passive, and each would own no more than 20 per cent.