Friday, October 15, 2010

Hicks And Gillett Lift Reds Restraining Order

Reports claim Tom Hicks and George Gillett have now lifted the Texas court restraining order preventing the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) from completing the sale of Liverpool.

ESPNsoccernet understands NESV have a banker's draft ready to dispatch to RBS before the 1700 BST deadline on Friday to erase any lingering concerns about Liverpool going into administration.

However, the early lifting of the injunction could also be because Hicks and Gillett are keen to push through a deal via Mill Financial. Hicks is apparently looking to sell his shares to the hedge fund, which acquired Gillett's shares in August, and it would then pay off the debts (which have risen to £280 million) to keep the club out of NESV's hands.

Indications are, though, that RBS has been advised by their legal team against accepting Mill Financial's offer to do so and it is still unclear as to whether Hicks requires the Liverpool board's approval to sell his shares.

High Court Rejects Attempts To Block Sale Of Liverpool

Liverpool's American owners suffered a further setback after a High Court judge ruled their injunction to block the sale of the club was ineffective.

The ruling paves the way for the club to be sold to New England Sports Ventures (NESV) for £300m, with an agreed deal likely on Friday.

On Wednesday, Reds owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett took out an injunction in Texas to block any proposed sale.

But Mr. Justice Floyd said that ruling had no validity in England.

Despite the second High Court ruling in as many days, Hicks and Gillett sought to extend the saga by requesting a further hearing in Texas on Thursday.

That court case has now been adjourned until 1300 BST (0700 local time) on Friday.

NESV, owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball team, also plan to make their own submission to the Dallas court to overturn the injunction obtained by Hicks and Gillett.

Mr. Justice Floyd has given the much-criticized owners until 1600 BST on Friday to withdraw their legal action in America, or face charges of contempt of court.

That deadline would allow the sale of the club to go through, which is essential if the club are to avoid defaulting on the repayment of £240m of loans due to Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) on Friday.

If that payment is not made, the club could be placed into administration and suffer a nine-point penalty.

During the afternoon's hearing, David Chivers QC, representing NESV, said his clients already considered themselves to be Liverpool's new owners.

And the head of NESV, John W Henry, was later seen entering the London offices of Liverpool's solicitors Slaughter and May for a meeting with the board.

Liverpool had been planning a media day to officially unveil Henry as the club's new owner on Friday, until Wednesday night's surprise injunction ended the plan.

But Reds chairman Martin Broughton said he hoped a deal could be sorted out before Sunday's Merseyside derby against Everton at Goodison Park.

"We're nearly there. We've still got to take away the restraining order," said Broughton.

"Mr. Henry is very committed. My guess is we'll have it done and he'll be there but we've got to get rid of this order first."

BBC Sport's Brian Alexander understands Henry's group is not the only interested party, with Mill Financial still "very much part of the mix" and "waiting to dive in if a deal with NESV does fall through".

Following the judgement, a statement issued on behalf of the Liverpool board said they were "delighted with the verdict of Mr. Justice Floyd in the High Court".

It continued: "We are glad to have taken another important step towards completing the sale process."

The latest development of a story which has swung ferociously between London and Dallas, comes after Hicks and Gillett's reign at Anfield had looked close to ending on Wednesday.

Their attempt to block the proposed sale of the club to NESV, sanctioned by independent directors including Broughton, managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre, was dismissed by the High Court.

But that ruling led the American owners to take out a temporary restraining order in a Texas court, halting any planned sale.

Hicks and Gillett's petition to the Texas court described the sale of Liverpool as an "epic swindle", and also laid out a claim for more than £1bn in damages.

And it was RBS which received the brunt of blame from the American duo, as the petition continued: "The director defendants were acting merely as pawns of RBS, wholly abdicating the fiduciary responsibilities that they owed in the sale.

"RBS has been complicit in this scheme with the director defendants."

Richard Snowden QC, representing RBS, said Hicks and Gillett's behaviour was "outrageous" and the proceedings in Texas were "plainly inappropriate.

"This dispute involves an English football club and three English companies and has no connection with Texas other than that Hicks and Gillett may reside there.

"It is a plain attempt to frustrate and impede the proceedings."

On Thursday, Mr. Justice Floyd came down in favour of the club again by granting an anti-suit injunction and criticizing Hicks and Gillett's conduct, calling it "unconscionable".

One aspect of the whole saga was made simpler when Singaporean businessman, Peter Lim, withdrew his £320m bid.

Lim stated: "The [Liverpool] board is intent on selling the club to NESV to the exclusion of all other parties, regardless of the merits of their bids."

John W Henry Vows To Keep Fighting For Control Of Liverpool

The Boston Red Sox owner, John W Henry, today pledged to fight Tom Hicks' "last desperate attempt" to hang on to Liverpool.

Henry said his New England Sports Ventures company has a binding agreement to buy Liverpool. His statement comes with Hicks looking likely to try to enlist Mill Financial – who already own George Gillett's 50% of the club – to pay the £280m debt to the Royal Bank of Scotland by today's deadline and thwart the takeover by NESV.

NESV believe any such attempt by Hicks would have to be ratified by the Liverpool board and they would be prepared to return to the high court to have their binding agreement upheld.

Henry said on his Twitter account this morning: "We have a binding contract. Will fight Mill Hicks Gillett attempt to keep club today. Their last desperate attempt to entrench their regime."

Time is running out for Hicks with a restraining order on the NESV takeover only in place until lunchtime today.

Tom Hicks’ UK Spokesman Confirms Liverpool Co-Owner Has Not Sold Shares To Mill Financial

Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks remains in control of his share of the club and has not sold out to Mill Financial.

In another twist to the Liverpool saga, reports earlier today had suggested the hedge fund, a branch of Washington-based Springfield Financial, had acquired the Texan's 50 per cent share having already taken ownership of his fellow co-owner George Gillett's half.

This would have meant that if Mill Financial were able to repay the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) then any prospective sale to New England Sports Ventures (NESV), who have agreed a £300 million deal, could be in jeopardy.

But a UK-based spokesman for Tom Hicks told the Press Association Sport that Mill Financial had not acquired the shares.

RBS have also not had any recent contact with Mill Financial, while no approach has been made to the Premier League to notify them of another potential change of ownership.

The news is another twist to the saga, with RBS and Liverpool returning to the High Court this afternoon to block a temporary restraining order taken out by Hicks and Gillett in Texas last night.

The injunction was imposed just minutes before a board meeting which took place in London late last night.

At the meeting chairman Martin Broughton, managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre out-voted Hicks and Gillett to complete the sale to NESV.

That was just hours after Mr. Justice Floyd had ruled the American owners had no right to block a sale.

Liverpool And Spurs Target Lyon Striker

Liverpool and Tottenham are tracking Lyon striker Lisandro Lopez, according to reports in the press on Thursday.

Harry Redknapp is scouring Europe for a new front man to help cope with playing a Champions League campaign and has also been linked with Sevilla's Luis Fabiano and Juventus' Vincenzo Iaquinta.

Liverpool also need a new striker to take some of the burden off Spain star Fernando Torres, although any move the Reds make is dependant on the ownership issue being concluded before the January transfer window opens.

Lyon are thought to be willing to let Lopez leave this winter if they receive an offer of around £14m for the 27-year-old Argentine.

Reina Craves Derby Spoils

Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina admits this weekend's Merseyside derby is of the utmost significance and insists it is vital the Red side of the city is triumphant.

Reina and co make the short trip to Goodison Park on Sunday when they lock horns with local rivals Everton as Premier League action swings back into force.

The Reds - who languish in the bottom three - went into the international break after suffering a humiliating defeat at Anfield at the hands of promoted Blackpool.

Everton, meanwhile, were victors against Birmingham City last time out and head into the derby with confidence back on their side after suffering a winless start to the campaign.

And Reina accepts the stakes have rarely been higher heading into the latest Merseyside tussle.

The Spanish custodian told The Daily Express: "This is the biggest in terms of needing the points for both teams. We are not in the best situation and we both need three points desperately.

"For whoever wins, it will be so important for the fans and for the optimism of the club. We have to win."

Reina still expects both clubs to be challenging for European slots come the business end of the season and expects Everton to offer a stern test after securing their first win of the campaign last time out.

The 28-year-old added: "We hope it isn't the real situation, or won't be the real situation at the end of the season. I think then both of us will be fighting to be in the top six.

"Everton's squad has been the same for a long time, they know each other and can almost play from memory. They can be good on the ball and also physical. To beat them at Goodison is going to be tougher than ever."

As Liverpool's takeover saga continues to rumble on, Reina remains focused on matters on the pitch, adding: "It's never nice to hear what is going on, about troubles and chaos. It's not good for the fans or the club.

"I've always said that it's not in the players' hands. All we can do is play, win games and try to work hard."

Jamie Carragher Inks New Two-Year Contract Extension

Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher has signed a two-year contract extension ahead of Sunday's Merseyside derby with Everton, the club have confirmed.

Carragher, 32, has spent his entire professional career at Anfield and has racked up 442 Premier League appearances. The ex-England defender would have become a free agent at the end of season but he has moved to commit the twilight of his career to the club.

It is understood that the deal contains no provision to join manager Roy Hodgson's coaching staff, although Carragher is currently taking his Uefa badges.

Spirit of Shankly Demand Fan Representation From New LFC Owners

Fans’ union Spirit of Shankly-ShareLiverpoolFC today welcomed the likely end of Hicks and Gillett’s ownership of LFC.

But they reiterated their desire for fan representation at ownership level.

A statement said: “At this stage we remain open minded about any new ownership regime. However our long held view that supporter ownership is right for Liverpool Football Club remains unaltered.

“The aspiration amongst supporters to become part of the ownership of LFC by investing our own money and to have our interests represented in the running of the club, still very much exists.

“Recent experience has demonstrated that meaningful fan representation through democratic supporter ownership is the only fail-safe way that we can ensure that a reoccurrence of recent events never happens again.

“This requires supporter ownership through a direct equity shareholding in LFC, in partnership with new owners, giving the supporters real and meaningful representation.

“This is also the best way that the club can rebuild its relationship with tens of thousands of disenfranchised fans who want the opportunity to invest in their club’s future. We will all be delighted to see the back of Hicks & Gillett, but at one level we are back where we were in 2007. This time, there is an opportunity to create a unique partnership between supporters and new owners to everyone’s benefit.”