Friday, August 13, 2010

Liverpool Postpone Meeting To Discuss Takeover With No Serious Bids On The Table

A Liverpool board meeting scheduled for Thursday to discuss offers for the club has been postponed, providing further evidence of the complications and uncertainty surrounding the club’s future.

The Daily Telegraph can disclose that the decision to postpone was taken amid continuing doubts about the credibility of potential bidders and after the date had been publicized in the media.

A well-placed source said it would have been “premature” to meet this week, indicating that the club was yet to receive any formal offers backed by proof of funds.

Sources said the board would not meet this week and it is unclear when the five-man group – chairman Martin Broughton, owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre – will now convene.

The delay raises doubts about the club’s prospects of changing hands this month, or even before the Oct 6 refinancing deadline set by Royal Bank of Scotland.

Broughton had asked as many as six potential buyers to table detailed offers, including proof of funds, by the end of this week, in the hope that two might be worth serious consideration. That deadline now looks ambitious.

For supporters desperate for clarity amid the claims and counter-claims of the last fortnight the postponement is not a positive sign.

Broughton might still emerge from the fog of speculation clutching a piece of paper securing the future of Liverpool FC in the near future, but this does not make it feel any more imminent.

At least five potential buyers are thought to have expressed an interest.

Chinese-American businessman Kenneth Huang and Syrian Yahya Kurdi have both said they are considering an offer for the club, while the Kuwaiti Al-Kharafi family and New York investors the Rhone Group are also thought to have expressed an interest.

Indian conglomerate Sahara said this week it would not bid “for the time being”, but did not rule it out.

Until any of them table offers with proof of funds, Broughton’s hopes of securing a deal before the end of the transfer window will be dashed.

The timing is significant. The deadline for formal offers falls on Friday and marks the end of the two-week window after which Huang indicated he would walk away if his offer was not accepted.

It is also just over a fortnight from the closure of the transfer window, the last opportunity for Roy Hodgson to enhance his squad.

It appears likely now that the window will close without a formal change in Liverpool’s ownership, leaving the far more significant deadline set by RBS looking like the decisive factor in regards to the fate of the club.

The bank agreed to extend its £237 million loan facility in April only after Hicks and Gillett agreed to sell and to appoint Broughton to oversee the process.

RBS is also understood to have imposed more expensive terms on the Americans, with £110 million of their debt reportedly converted to payment-in-kind loans accruing interest of up to £2.5 million a week.

This gives RBS by far the greatest leverage of any of the players in the Anfield saga, though whether the bank will choose to use it remains to be seen.

RBS is reported to have offered to “ease” the financing for any bidder, a move that emphasizes the sensitivity of its position.

If October arrives with no acceptable offer RBS could extend its financing to the Americans again, or take a more drastic step and force out Hicks and Gillett and effectively take control of the club.

That would be a hugely controversial step for the publicly-owned bank to take and would require the endorsement of senior management including chief executive Stephen Hester.

Removing the Americans might be popular on Merseyside and would certainly simplify the process, but it would not be without implications for the bank’s reputation.

For potential bidders RBS’s situation offers an opportunity. Letting the clock tick down will increase the bank’s anxiety, the fees paid by Hicks and Gillett and drive the price down .

Sahara’s statement this week suggests that may be its strategy.

Kurdi, understood to be backed by investors from Sharjah and considered a serious bidder by the Americans, who are seeking a profit from their time in charge at Anfield, indicated he would do likewise.

“I want at least two months, two months to see everything. After that if everything is OK it’s a deal. If not, 'Thank you very much’,” he told Bloomberg this week.

The Huang bid told The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday that it had still not decided whether to make an offer.

Marc Ganis, a US associate of Huang’s, said via email: “We haven’t yet decided to submit a formal proposal but are interested in looking at an investment there. I suspect that is obvious. We also have not identified the potential investors.”

Ganis’s statement is a far more sober assessment than the suggestions of a swift Chinese government-backed takeover emanating from Huang’s camp last week.

Huang, a sports business investor who cites top-level contacts in China and the US, has made no comment himself since news of his intentions emerged last week.

There has been confusion over the source of his funding and the exact make-up of his team.

His background has come under scrutiny too, though not via his company website, which has displayed the message 'Site Under Maintenance’ since his involvement.

Huang received an endorsement on Wednesday when Randy Levine, president of the New York Yankees, told the New York Times he had arranged marketing tie-ups in China.

Huang would hope to forge similar links for Liverpool, but first, like everyone else circling the club, he will have to convince Broughton he has the finances to pay for it.

If he and the other interested parties cannot, RBS may have to decide the club’s future in the autumn.

Denmark's Poulsen Signs For Liverpool

Denmark midfielder Christian Poulsen was reunited with former manager Roy Hodgson on Thursday when he agreed a three-year contract with Liverpool.

The Premier League club's website ( said the 30-year-old had joined from Juventus where he spent two disappointing seasons after leaving Sevilla.

Juventus said Liverpool had agreed to pay a fee of 5.4 million euros ($6.96 million) for Poulsen. A further 1.2 million euros could be payable depending on appearances.

Poulsen, who has been capped 77 times by Denmark, plays a similar role to Javier Mascherano and his arrival will increase the likelihood the Argentine is to leave Anfield.

Hodgson, who has also signed midfielder Joe Cole from Chelsea and winger Milan Jovanovic from Standard Liege on free transfers since taking over last month, worked with Poulsen at FC Copenhagen.

Hodgson Considers Move For Villa Pair Petrov And Warnock

Liverpool are considering a double Villa Park swoop as Roy Hodgson looks to take advantage of the uncertainty at Aston Villa to help strengthen his squad. Hodgson is looking to bring Stephen Warnock and Stiliyan Petrov to the Merseyside club and with Martin O’Neill quitting the club yesterday the Anfield boss will be hoping to persuade both players to make the move north.

England international Warnock of course started his career at Liverpool but left after nine years trying to force his way into the first team reckoning. Since leaving the club the left back has gone from strength to strength first at Ewood Park and then at Villa. Hodgson persuaded Fabio Aurelio to re-sign for the club but he could well need another full back and may feel the 28 year old Ormskirk lad would be a better option.

Petrov followed O’Neill from Celtic to Villa and will not be pleased by his departure and indeed the reasons behind it. Hodgson had already been linked with a move for the 31 year old Bulgarian but his interest will have now increased following this weeks events.

Neither player would cost a large sum and the pair could be snapped up for around £14m and with Javier Mascherano set to leave the club Hodgson should have the funds to bring in new additions.

West Ham Will Sell Carlton Cole To Liverpool For £20million

Liverpool will have to cough up £20million for Carlton Cole.

West Ham are willing to sell but they want a top price as they would have little time before the new season kicks off to sign a replacement striker.

Kop boss Roy Hodgson was instructed earlier this week to pay £15m up front with a further £5m fixed to appearances.

A Hammers insider said: "It has to be a big price for Carlton. With just days to go before the season starts, the club doesn’t want to be left in the lurch.

"If things happened earlier, maybe the price could have been lower."

Hammers have already turned down a Stoke bid of £9m plus £3m on appearances for Cole, 26.

The frontman has been in fine pre-season form, scoring four goals in six games as he bids to add to his seven England caps.

Javier Mascherano Insists He Has Nothing Against Club

Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano insists he has nothing against the club despite his desire to leave.

"The only thing I want to say is I don’t have nothing against the Liverpool supporters, the Liverpool people," said Mascherano after Argentina’s 1-0 win over the Republic of Ireland. “My problem is not playing for Liverpool. I’m very proud to play for Liverpool. It’s another thing.

“I said to him (new Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson) that maybe for my life I prefer to change the country, not to change the club - that is the fact.

“Sometimes you can see all the things that the papers or the press say, but at the end the only thing I can say is thank you to everyone in Liverpool because they supported me all the time, from the beginning until now.”

The 26-year-old appears to be on his way to Barcelona after Inter Milan pulled out of the running for his signature.

Jamie Carragher Believes Wave Of Optimism Will Carry Reds To New Era Of Success

Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher is relishing the beginning of a new Premier League campaign, with a new air of optimistic expectation enveloping Anfield in the wake of the arrival of new manager Roy Hodgson.

Last season ended with the club in something of a shambles, with the off-pitch ownership issues compounding a miserable performance by former boss Rafael Benitez and his squad.

But Carragher expects things to be much better this time around.

"We have got to look forward with great excitement," he told his club's official website.

"Last season never went well but we have got to forget about it and put it behind us. Just like when Rafa Benitez and Gerard Houllier came in, everyone got a lift.

"That's the way it is. We are not a club that changes manager every couple of years. But it's not just that. We have made a couple of good signings, like Joe Cole. Not only that, two of the best players in the world has just committed their futures.

"That is absolutely massive and has given everyone the kind of lift we needed. We have got to be positive and I see no reason why we can't do well but the proof, as always, will be provided by the performances we produce on the pitch."

Carragher believes that the Reds' players have learned valuable lessons from last season and will now need to use that experience to their advantage.

"You have got to remember that right until the end, we were still in with a chance of getting into the top four," he said about last season.

"I know people are writing us off and saying we have got no chance but I've no doubt that we will improve.

"We are not the type of club that says we are going to do this or that. But now is the time for everyone to come together again and show that we can leave last year's form well behind. There will be new ideas, difference voices on the training ground and all that helps."

"You never know what might happen," he said. "Last year after a few games, the whole world had written me off and said I was finished.

"But in the second half of the season, along with Mascherano and Pepe, I was probably one of the most consistent players and when you look at how the defence played, we managed to keep 18 clean sheets."

The former England defender is also sure that he still has a full part to play under new boss Roy Hodgson, although he admits he'll have to fight to retain his place in the team.

"That's gone now and you have to do it all again. There is going to be a challenge and it has always been the case that players will want to take your place but you just have to be ready for the challenge.

"I played every week for Rafa for six years but I've got to prove myself again. Even if Rafa had still been here that would have been the case. There will be a time when I don't play 50 games a season but I've no intention of it happening this year."

"There is one thing that will never change. Liverpool will always be expected to do well and the pressure for us to be successful is just as intense as it was all those years ago; it might even be more. It will be like that for years to come."

Steven Gerrard: England Youngsters Did Us Proud

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard believes that England's young players deserve plaudits for the way they handled the pressure of appearing in the friendly against Hungary at Wembley on Wednesday evening.

Gerrard himself netted two second half goals after Hungary had gone into the lead through a Phil Jagielka own goal.

Many had also expected the team to receive a rough reception from the England fans after the shambolic World Cup campaign in the summer.

But the captain felt that the way youngsters such as Joe Hart and Adam Johnson contributed to the team effort was worthy of commendation.

"I thought the young guys tonight were superb," he told Sky Sports News.

"They deserve the big headlines. I thought to play for England is very difficult at this level.

"It's tough and to get through at the age of 18 or 19 is really tough.

Especially in this situation after a tough World Cup. I thought they handled themselves really well and they can be proud of themselves."

Sharjah Royal Family Behind Yahya Kirdi's Bid To Buy Liverpool

Yahya Kirdi's proposed bid to purchase Liverpool is being backed by members the ruling al-Qasimi family of Sharjah, according to a report from The Guardian.

Syrian businessman Kirdi has claimed that his bid is backed by significant investors in the Middle East and Canada, though the individuals concerned are yet to be named or presented to Reds chairman Martin Broughton.

Kirdi is believed to have authority to represent the family in business dealings.

The report claims that the al-Qasimi family has been negotiating through Kirdi directly with owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett since October to buy the club.

The al-Qasimis have ruled Sharjah, the third richest of the United Arab Emirates, for centuries, though are not believed to be the Gulf state's richest family.

The Guardian claims that a deal has in principle been agreed between the buyers and Hicks and Gillet. This deal would see the investors take over the club, Liverpool's debts to Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia paid off and a new stadium funded by a 15-year finance arrangement.

The Liverpool board is scheduled to meet later this week to discuss the issue of the club's sale.

Liverpool Frustrated With Public Posturing Of Potential Buyers

Liverpool's hierarchy is becoming increasingly frustrated with the way in which potential buyers of the club are conducting themselves in the media, according to a report from The Independent.

The investment bankers seeking to sell the club are understood to be annoyed at interested parties trying to win a public relations battle rather than work towards a deal.

Martin Broughton, the Liverpool chairman, is believed to concur and has been irritated by the public remarks of interested parties.

One bid is being put together by Syrian businessman Yahya Kirdi, who has insisted that he "is not a cowboy" and that he has not made an offer of £600 million for the Reds.

"I can't pay one pound more than value of Liverpool," said the man whose bid is reportedly backed by "big names" from Canada and the Middle East.

The names of those involved have not been revealed, with Kirdi claiming that they wish to remain anonymous until the situation is resolved.

With the Liverpool board scheduled to meet at Anfield on Wednesday, there is still no evidence that any bids for the club will have been tabled by that time.

Meanwhile, another potential buyer, Hong Kong businessman Kenny Huang, has found his bid mired in controversy.

Following accusations this week that the bid would be backed by the China Investment Corporation, the Chinese state’s sovereign wealth arm, The Daily Telegraph also reports that Huang was the subject of lawsuit in the United States from a former business partner.

The case took place in Florida in 1999, with Huang, who at the time was a resident of Las Vegas, ordered to pay damages of $750,000 (£473,000) along with interest £788,300 (£497,000)

A spokesman for Huang has reportedly confirmed to The Telegraph that the case took place but refused to reveal the nature of the dispute or the business venture.

US Court records apparently list Huang as being involved in several other legal disputes over the last few years, though his representatives have been at pains to stress that he had not been found liable and that there are no outstanding proceedings against him.

The New York investment house the Rhone Group and the Kuwaiti Al-Kharifi family are also reported as potential buyers of the club.