Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tom Hicks Stays Silent On Kop Investment Split

Tom Hicks has kept his shareholding in Liverpool separate from his other sports assets in apparent fear of a collapse of the highly leveraged Premier League club. Digger has obtained a corporate flowchart detailing all of the sporting interests Hicks has held through his holding company, HSG Hicks Sports Group.

The chart was filed with a US court in bankruptcy proceedings against Texas Rangers, the Major League Baseball franchise that has now been sold by Hicks, in which the courts had invited Rangers' creditors to pursue other HSG assets.

That order could put at risk his stake in the Dallas Stars ice hockey team, as well as stakes in those organizations’' associated real estate operations, which sat alongside the Texas Rangers in HSG. Yet, curiously, Liverpool's ultimate parent company, Kop Investment LLC, is not listed among them.

It is not known precisely how his Kop shareholding is structured since that company has never met its statutory requirement to file an annual return. But Liverpool's ring-fencing out of HSG cannot have been for tax or legal reasons: Kop is registered in Delaware, the tax-friendly location where other Hicks investments are held.

A spokesman for Hicks did not return calls yesterday after Digger put it to him that the purpose of the separation was to prevent Liverpool's debts causing problems for other HSG assets. Despite their separation the dominoes have begun to fall.

Liverpool To Be Hit With £60m Bill If No Buyer Found By October

No firm bids are expected for Liverpool on Friday, the self-imposed deadline set by chairman Martin Broughton, according to a report from The Guardian.

That means that the club's owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett will be hit with another £2.5 million in fees from Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), the amount the club are apparently being charged by the bank for every week the club is not sold.

The £2.5m weekly penalties have apparently been imposed on Hicks and Gillett's holding company Kop, as part of the refinancing last April of £237m in loans from RBS.

Those weekly penalties will have added up to £60m, the report claims, if the club has not been soled by October 6 when the loan expires.

That would apparently mean that RBS will have acquired more than £200m in interest and fees since February 2007, when it loaned the Americans £185m to buy the club.

According to the report, the accumulating fees are charged to Hicks's and Gillett's holding company. They will become due for repayment by the owners if and when the club is finally sold.

Meanwhile, the report also claims that Yahya Kirdi's possible bid for the club is to be delayed.

Reports had claimed this week that his bid was backed by a member of the ruling family of Sharjah, which yesterday announced the death of Sheikha Maryam al-Shamsi, the mother of Sharjah's ruler, Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed al-Qassimi.

That means that no business will be conducted during the seven days of mourning following the bereavement.

Hong Kong-based businessman Kenneth Huang, another possible purchaser of the club, is yet to provide Reds chairman Martin Broughton with a detailed proposal that also provides proof that the cash is there to buy the club.

Huang has confirmed though that his consortium is interested in bidding for Liverpool.

Barcelona Agree Deal With Liverpool For Javier Mascherano - Report

Spanish giants Barcelona are set to land Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano, after striking a deal with the Reds, according to reports.

The deal will be comprised of a player-plus-cash offer, with the Anfield outfit set to receive midfielder Aliaksandr Hleb and approximately €15 million for the Argentina captain, according to Ole.

The report also claims that the player's agent has already met with Barcelona officials, and confirmation of the deal could come in the next few days.

Mascherano had recently expressed his desire to leave the Reds and join the Spanish side, or reunite with former coach Rafael Benitez at European champions Inter.

The Blaugrana were seeking another midfielder, after Yaya Toure departed the Camp Nou for Manchester City during the summer.

Babel Back On Blues Radar understands Birmingham are stepping up their interest in Liverpool's Ryan Babel.

The Reds are ready to offload the former Ajax ace so that they can fund some of their own signings before the close of the transfer window.

The news has rekindled Birmingham's interest in the 23-year-old with Blues boss Alex McLeish a long-term admirer of the versatile attacker.

Birmingham failed in a bid to sign Babel during the January transfer window, but they have been keeping tabs on his situation at Anfield.

McLeish has been frustrated in his attempts to bring in attacking reinforcements after missing out on Moussa Dembele and he could now refocus his attentions on Babel.

Liverpool Confirmed With Madrid In Race For Belgian Starlet

Liverpool has joined Europe's elite in the race to sign Belgian starlet Romelu Lukaku.

The Anderlecht teenager has been earning rave reviews after scoring 15 goals in 25 Belgian First Division last season, and Liverpool boss Roy Hodgson appears to have taken an interest in the player after quotes from his representative.

"None of the clubs have contacted us or Anderlecht lately, but I know that Real came to see Romelu a few times and the interest is there," Christophe Henrotay told De Standaard.

"There is also interest from Liverpool, Chelsea and all the great European clubs, but it's too soon."

The Daily Mail reports that Lukaku has snubbed an approach from Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho, and Henrotay hinted that his client would be happy to spend more time with the Champions playing first team football.

"The ideal scenario for Romelu is to stay at Anderlecht this year and play in the Champions League. Romelu shouldn't be in any rush."

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba urged the African-born 17-year-old to join the Blues as recently as last month, but any immediate move appears to have stalled.

The level of interest from new Reds boss Roy Hodgson is unknown, but the Anfield club is keen to strengthen their attacking line before the summer transfer window closes at the end of this month. No club has made a concrete move for the player yet, as confirmed by the club.

"We haven't received any concrete bids for Romelu," said manager Herman Van Holsbeeck.

Middlesbrough Confirm Deal Is Not In Place For Brad Jones To Join Liverpool

Middlesbrough has denied reports that they have reached an agreement with Liverpool for the sale of goalkeeper Brad Jones.

Various reports had suggested the Australia international was set to join Liverpool, but Boro have shot down the claims and say no such deal has been agreed.

In a statement on the club's official website Boro said: "Boro have confirmed that they have not reached an agreement with any club for the sale of goalkeeper Brad Jones."

Asked if Jones will be available for selection for the trip to Leicester City at the weekend, manager Gordon Strachan told the club's official website: "I've no idea, we'll pick a squad on Saturday of available people.

"The big bonus is Jason Steele did terrifically well at Chesterfield.

"Danny Coyne was excellent in the dressing room with Jason, as was Brad. Between the two of them, they got a real performance out of Jason.

"He's a talented keeper. He's been brought up the right way, he's confident without being arrogant, and he has a chance of becoming a good goalkeeper."

Fulham Midfielder Zoltan Gera Plays Down Liverpool Link

Fulham midfielder Zoltan Gera has played down rumours that he could be set for a move to Liverpool.

The Hungary captain has been linked with a switch to Anfield and a reunion with his old Fulham boss Roy Hodgson.

However, he told Sky Sports News: "I do not know anything about this.

"I was happy at Fulham with Roy, but he has moved on to Liverpool and I am still at Fulham.

"Mark Hughes is a very good manager, we have had some great training sessions.

"He wants a different Fulham, and I think the team will be capable of these new things."

Gera, who is also believed to be attracting interest from Werder Bremen, made 27 Premier League appearances for Fulham last season and played a key role as his side reached the Europa League final.

Hodgson Still Hopeful On Mascherano

Roy Hodgson insists Christian Poulsen was not brought to the club as a replacement for Javier Mascherano and says he does not expect the Argentina captain to leave Liverpool in the imminent future.

Hodgson brought in defensive midfielder Poulsen, 30, from Juventus this week and many believe the transfer was made as a result of the expected departure of Mascherano to Inter or Barcelona.

However, Hodgson has dismissed those rumours and said Poulsen was simply brought in to give him another option ahead of a potentially busy season.

"It is not a question of Christian replacing Javier," he said. "I believe Javier is going to play for us. We've got a lot of games to play hopefully and we're going to need a lot of players. We didn't take him in to replace somebody - we took him in because we want him to improve the size of our squad and the quality of our squad."

Asked if Mascherano's statement that he had no problem with Liverpool as a club means there is hope he could stay, Hodgson said: "There's no point in me commenting on things Javier has said or supposedly said, because I've had seven or eight training sessions with him now and we talk about football.

"Since our very early meeting where he made it clear that if possible he would prefer to leave, he's been getting on with his work, training properly, playing properly and, as far as I'm concerned, he's a Liverpool player until the day somebody signs him, and that day does not seem to be imminent."

He added: "As far as Javier is concerned, I can quite categorically state there has been no offer from any club for him. As a result, I don't see why every day I should put his loyalty or desire to the club in doubt.

"We made it clear to him that if the offer he wanted came along we probably would not stand in his way but that offer has not come along and he is working hard to play for Liverpool.

"He is a realistic player. He is playing for Liverpool and is not looking for a move to a Spanish second division team - there are very few clubs in the world that can even consider having Javier Mascherano on their books.

"If he wants to leave he will be expecting a club of a similar stature to Liverpool to come along and at the moment they haven't so I'm presuming he is very happy to stay here."

Liverpool Helps Premier League To Celebrate World Record

A new study has revealed that the English Premier League (EPL), boosted by recent landmark deals secured by Liverpool and Manchester United, has achieved a world record level of shirt sponsorship, comprehensively overtaking all existing professional soccer competitions.

The 2010/11 Premier League season's revenue from shirt sponsorship totals US$155 million, of which Liverpool contributes the most. This season’s sponsorship is thought to be up US$43 million from the previous year, surpassing the previous record set by Germany's Bundesliga in 2009.

The news comes partly as a result of two of the Premier League’s top clubs, Liverpool and Manchester United, signing new multi-million dollar deals. Liverpool with the British financial services company Standard Chartered and Manchester United the insurance giant Aon.

"It shows how successful the English top flight is when firms will pay such huge sums for their brands to be seen in stadiums and, crucially, on television around the world," said Alex Miller, the man responsible for conducting the study.

Liverpool's record US$31 million per year deal with the London-headquartered company is worth more than double the club's previous agreement with the Danish brewer Carlsberg.

Meanwhile Manchester United's new sponsorship with Aon, who replace previous shirt sponsor AIG, is on similar terms to their Merseyside rival, just tipping the US$30 million mark.