Saturday, October 09, 2010

Premier League Approves NESV's Liverpool Takeover

The Premier League has given the go-ahead for New England Sports Ventures's proposed takeover of Liverpool.

The group has offered £300m for the club but Reds co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett oppose the sale as they value Liverpool at double NESV's bid.

If the pair manage to block the deal in the High Court, their holding company could face administration, resulting in a nine-point deduction for the club.

The duo must pay major creditors Royal Bank of Scotland £280m by 15 October.

The Premier League statement read: "The Premier League has met with the owners and directors of New England Sports Ventures (NESV) regarding their proposed takeover of Liverpool FC and has received details, in accordance with Premier League rules, of the proposed company and ownership structure as well as the make-up of the new board."

Americans Hicks and Gillett own Liverpool through their Kop Holdings vehicle and the club is its only real asset.

RBS is owed £240m in loans and £40m in fees and, if Hicks and Gillett manage to block the sale in the High Court next week, they would need to repay or refinance the debt to avoid administration.

Under the terms of the NESV deal that was agreed by the Liverpool board, the co-owners stand to lose about £140m.

Should Kop Holdings be placed in administration, the Premier League board, which comprises chief executive Richard Scudamore, chairman Sir Dave Richards and secretary Mike Foster, would then decide whether to dock points.

Premier League rules state the points penalty can be applied if a parent company insolvency is caused by the club's management.

Liverpool are already in the bottom three of the Premier League after a dismal start to the season, amassing only six points from their opening seven games.

An appeal is likely regardless of the High Court ruling, with no outcome likely before the 15 October refinancing deadline set by RBS.

RBS will have the choice to waive their demand for repayment until the legal dispute is finalized, or call in the debt and place the parent company into administration.

Portsmouth became the first Premier League club to enter administration on 26 February and automatically received a nine-point reduction, condemning them to relegation.

In a similar case, West Ham avoided a penalty when their holding company went into administration in 2009 - that is because the east London club was just one of several interests in the portfolio of Icelandic bank Straumur.

However, also in 2009, Southampton were docked 10 points by the Football League after their parent company Southampton Leisure Holdings went into administration, as a League investigation found they were "inextricably linked as one economic entity". That was a decision taken by the Football League rather than the Premier League.

With the Premier League meeting the owners and directors of NESV in the last couple of weeks, league bosses have confirmed that John W Henry and his board have passed recently changed the 'new owners' and directors' test.

However, BBC Sport understands that the Premier League has yet to see a business plan from NESV and is keen to avoid further embarrassment after a succession of takeovers at Portsmouth failed to solve their financial problems.

If for some reason a deal with NESV is scuppered, BBC Sport sources have learned that the Asian consortium that has also tabled a bid for the Merseysiders could then be in a position to proceed.

But there is no hint of concern over NESV's financial muscle.

The Premier statement continued: "The Premier League is satisfied, with the information provided, that the individuals NESV intend to put in place in the event they complete their takeover of Liverpool FC meet the criteria set out in our owners' and directors' test.

"The board of the Premier League will continue working with Liverpool FC in regard to this process, however, we are aware that the formal completion of this takeover is yet to be resolved and it is therefore inappropriate for us to offer any further comment at this time.”

Liverpool Sale May Collapse If Nine Points Are Deducted

The prospective new owners of Liverpool could be discouraged from buying the club if next week's court action fails to force the deal through and the club is then placed into administration, incurring a nine‑point penalty from the Premier League. Sources close to the Liverpool battle said the loss of nine points, which could sink the team into a genuine relegation battle, would mean "the economics of the club are devastated", and New England Sports Ventures might reconsider its position.

It was previously thought that the Premier League would not deduct nine points, its penalty for clubs which go into administration, because the holding company would be in default, not the club. However it emerged yesterday that the league's chief executive, Richard Scudamore, believes that the holding company's administration cannot be entirely separated from the club, and the nine-point penalty would apply.

NESV is not commenting on the Liverpool situation until it is resolved. However, it would be natural, when considering its position, for the consortium to take account of the dramatically changed circumstances Liverpool would be in if the club lost nine points.

The penalty could be imposed next Friday and, with no further Premier League matches having been played, Liverpool would be bottom on minus three points, eight points behind the two clubs immediately above, Wolves and West Ham United, and nine points from safety.

That would be a huge setback for a club still aspiring to be in the top four, not fourth from bottom, making it almost certain, at the very least, that they would not qualify for the Champions League for the second successive season. Financially, that would have a major impact, and relegation a catastrophic one, so new owners might have to contemplate spending more than they planned on new players in January to ensure Premier League survival.

NESV, which owns the Boston Red Sox, has concluded a deal with the Liverpool chairman, Martin Broughton, to buy the club, a takeover which the Premier League approved in principle yesterday. However the consortium, and its majority shareholder, John W Henry, must wait to see whether a high court judge is prepared to declare that Broughton does have the right to sell the club, against the unwavering opposition of the current owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, who are fighting to get some money from their exit out of Liverpool.

If Broughton's court action fails, the £237m owed to Royal Bank of Scotland by Hicks's and Gillett's Liverpool holding company, Kop, falls due next Friday, 15 October. Hicks and Gillett, under financial pressure in the US, are expected to fail to pay, and RBS is currently believed likely to put the club into administration, although the scale of the damage that could do to Liverpool might cause the bank to reassess.

"Going into administration needs to be avoided at all costs, as the negative impact would be catastrophic," Broughton said. "Setting aside the nine-point deduction, it would have an impact on Liverpool's value and be wide open to predators, whereas we have what we believe is the right new owners to take the club forward."

The whole prospect of NESV reconsidering its position dramatically increases the importance for Liverpool of Broughton succeeding with next week's court action. He will ask the judge, crucially, to declare that as the chairman, he had the sole right to appoint and remove directors, so keeping his majority on the board, with the managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre. On Tuesday, Hicks attempted to sack those two and replace them with his son, Mack, and Mack's assistant, Lori Kay McCutcheon.

Broughton will also ask for a declaration that Hicks and Gillett cannot block the deal because of undertakings they gave RBS not to obstruct a "reasonable" sale. Hicks argues the deal, which will pay him and Gillett nothing, "dramatically undervalues" Liverpool, so he is fighting to hold out for another deal offering more money.

If Hicks succeeds, Liverpool are expected to be put into administration on Friday, then for RBS to sell the club to NESV for £200m. Yet that would be up for negotiation, and a nine-point penalty could severely affect the outcome.

Red Sox Owners Given Arsenal Tour Ahead Of Anfield Bid can exclusively reveal that the prospective new owners of Liverpool, New England Sports Ventures (NESV), were given a personal tour of Arsenal's Emirates stadium in a bid to learn about the sustainable financial model instigated by the North London club.

NESV, owners of MLB franchise Boston Red Sox, were shown around the Gunners new arena and state-of-the-art London Colney training ground three weeks ago by chief executive Ivan Gazidis as they weighed up their bid for Premier League rivals Liverpool.

Arsenal have been hailed for the successful manner in which they moved from Highbury to the Emirates in 2006, after announcing a desire to move in 1999. The Gunners recorded pre-tax profits of £56 million for the year ending May 31, 2010, with group turnover increasing from £313m to £379.9m. Having recorded a handsome profit on the redevelopment of Highbury into premium real estate, the club also boast an unmatched record for takings on matchdays at their new stadium.

The prospective new owners of Liverpool have promised to free the club from the burden of 'acquisition debt' when they take charge at Anfield. NESV are poised to take control of the ailing Premier League outfit, as soon as a deal can be reached with fellow Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

A statement from NESV read: "NESV wants to create a long-term financially solid foundation for Liverpool FC and is dedicated to ensuring that the club has the resources to build for the future, including the removal of all acquisition debt.

"Our objective is to stabilise the club and ultimately return Liverpool FC to its rightful place in English and European football, successfully competing for and winning trophies.

"Since 2001, New England Sports Ventures has made successful investments in sports and entertainment properties.

"Our portfolio of companies, including the Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park, New England Sports Network, Fenway Sports Group and Roush Fenway Racing are all committed to one common goal: winning.

"NESV wants to help bring back the culture of winning to Liverpool FC.

"We have a proven track record, shown clearly with the Boston Red Sox. The team has won two World Series Championships over the past six years. We will bring the same kind of openness, passion, dedication and professionalism to Liverpool FC.

"We are hopeful with regard to the pending legal and English Premier League procedures now underway, however, in light of these issues, we will respectfully refrain from comment or further actions at this time."

George Gillett’s Role Now Unclear In LFC After Default On £75m Loan

The role of George Gillett in Liverpool Football Club remains unclear as he is in default on a £75m loan he took out to invest in the club.

The loan from Mill Financial, an arm of US hedge fund Springfield Financial Company, should have been paid by the co-owner of the football club.

But it has not been and Mill Financial could take control of his shareholding.

At this stage the company does not appear to be exerting that much influence at Anfield, and has not returned calls from the ECHO, so its intentions are unclear.

Technically, Liverpool view the current legal dispute as a straight fight with Tom Hicks, not Gillett, owing to that £75m loan default.

But despite this debt not being paid, and unconfirmed reports that a US hedge fund took control of his share at Anfield, Gillett carried enough sway to join his co-owner in their attempt to vote Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre off the board during Tuesday’s extraordinary meeting.

For the time being George Gillett remains on the board of Kop Holdings along with co-owner Hicks, chairman Martin Broughton, managing director Purslow, and commercial director Ayre.

When buying Liverpool FC, the Americans set up a complex series of holding companies with an overriding parent company registered in Delaware.

Gillett’s £75m loan from Mill Financial is secured against his 50% share in the Delaware based parent company.

But the £237m RBS debt is secured against Kop Holdings, which sits much further down the line in the hierarchy of holding companies and just one level above Liverpool Football Club company, which ultimately controls the assets of the Reds – the playing squad, stadium, and commercial rights.

As the RBS debt is secured against the company in direct control of LFC it is in the strongest position to be repaid.

The £75m loan from Mill Financial provided the cash that Gillett used to invest in the club and had amounted to his Reds equity.

Liverpool Confident New Owners Can Keep Torres

Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton believes new owner John Henry and right-hand man Tom Werner can convince Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard that they have a winning mentality, and they should stick around Anfield to see how far they plan to take the team.

As soon as the owners of the Boston Red Sox are installed and running the club, they plan to meet up with manager Roy Hodgson and his key players to convince them of their vision of turning around Liverpool's on-field fortunes.

There has already been speculation that Torres will head off to Manchester City or Barcelona in the summer after Hodgson's disastrous start to the new season, but Broughton has other ideas. Circling clubs are hoping to take advantage of Liverpool's current problems to capture Torres, and Gerrard remains on the radar of Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid and Rafa Benitez at Inter Milan.

Broughton told ESPNsoccernet: "The new owners want to be winners, and Fernando Torres wants to be a winner. They will be well matched. Will Fernando want to stay when he hears what they've got say? Absolutely."

The chairman's plan was to announce the takeover and then engage with all the team to explain to them about the new era at the club. But Broughton explained: "The plan was to get all the players together at the training ground to inform them of events, but then we discovered that most of them had gone off for international duty.

"Christian Purslow has spoken to Jamie Carragher and the few players who have been left. He [Purslow] has also spoken to our manager Roy Hodgson about the ideas and plans of the new owners."

Aquilani Is Fast Improving

Alberto Aquilani is playing with a smile on his face again at Juventus - after his disappointing £20million switch to Liverpool.

The 26-year-old was sent back on-loan to his native country after failing to set Anfield alight following his record move from Roma last summer.

Aquilani did not start the first four games of the campaign for Luigi Del Neri's team but has now gained a place in the starting line up.

"The team is gradually improving. The same applies to me and I'm happy," Aquilani told Sky Italia.

"Juve is a team that has changed a lot and as I said when I joined them, it will take time for the team to show its true potential.

"It was not something that I liked but it was the coach's decision.

"The fact is that Juve gave me the opportunity to return to Italy and I took that chance.

"It was not an easy decision because Juve have great midfielders and I knew the competition would be tough."

Signed by former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez, their paths crossed when Aquilani played against Inter Milan last weekend.

He added: "It was nice to see him again. Despite a difficult year for both of us (at Liverpool), I had a good rapport with him.

"We spoke a little bit about Liverpool."

The issue of the Liverpool ownership is something that has not escaped the attention of the Italian following their proposed sale this week, but he admits his future is no clearer.

"I don't know if the club's sale will help Juve or Liverpool with respect to getting my services back," he explained.

"But whatever happens, the English club has meant a crucial move for my career."

Liverpool 'Exerting Strong Pressure' On Valencia Over Juan Mata

Perhaps in anticipation of New England Sports Ventures' proposed £300m takeover of Liverpool eventually going through, the Reds are reportedly planning for January purchases.

According to the Spanish daily Super Deporte, Valencia winger Juan Mata is firmly in Reds boss Roy Hodgson’s sights.

The paper claims that Liverpool have been “exerting strong pressure” on the La Liga leaders over the player.

It follows rumours that Liverpool could use Ryan Babel as a makeweight in a deal for the winger.

Mata averages a goal or assist every 105.5 minutes this season.

He is contracted to Valencia until 2012 and is valued at €20M-30M

Reds Chasing Four New Players

Liverpool scout Jakob Friis-Hansen has hinted the club are looking to bring in four new players in the January transfer window.

The Reds are currently embroiled in a takeover saga, with the boardroom split over a decision to sell and a High Court appearance needed next week to settle matters between owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks, and board members Christian Purslow, Ian Ayre and chairman Martin Broughton.

Dane Friis-Hansen is currently in his homeland after watching Lyngby's clash with FC Nordsjaelland, where he was thought to be watching young trio Kim Aabech, Lasse Rise and Emil Larsen in action.

However, Friis-Hansen denied he was interested in the players and had just visited the club to see an old friend, admitting in the process that he is looking for several first-team players to join the ranks at Anfield.

"I played with an old friend in Lyngby and have many good friends at the club, and because you have seen me up there, it does not mean that I am interested in their players. It is not what we need now," Friis-Hansen told

"The results are now important in Liverpool, it is first priority to get four prominent players in the next window for the first team. Players who can go into the starting line-up.

"Roy (Hodgson) will hopefully get some money to work with. I will work in Italy, Germany, France, Belgium and Holland and will this year also be going to Spain for Liverpool and it is solely for the first team.

"It is a shame for Roy to get such a start, for there is no doubt that he is a really good coach. But it has been a tough start, because you did not know and still do not know what will happen with the club financially.

"I can hopefully go out and look at players in the highest price category at a time. But we will see."

Reds To Open Belfast Store

Liverpool Football Club are delighted to announce plans to open their fifth official club store in Belfast.

Opening in early November 2010, the store will be located on Castle Lane, in the heart of Belfast's retail district.

The store will cover 2000 sq. ft. and will stock a wide range of official club merchandise.

Lee Dwerryhouse, Head of Retail at Liverpool Football Club, believes Belfast is the right city to host the Club's first store away from home territory. "As a city Belfast has many parallels with Liverpool and the Club's fan base in the city is huge," he said.

"Our fans in Belfast are extremely passionate and their loyalty to the club is unbelievable. I am delighted we have been able to reward that loyalty and passion with our first store outside of the north west of England.

"We considered many sites for our next store but all the signs kept pointing back to Belfast. This store signals the start of an expansion strategy that will see a host of official Club stores opening outside of Liverpool over the next few years."

An opening date for the store is yet to be confirmed but a launch event featuring exclusive promotions and a number of special guests is planned.