English soccer club Liverpool agrees to Red Sox takeover, pending settlement of board dispute

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Liverpool board agrees on sale to Red Sox owners

LONDON — Liverpool’s board agreed to sell the English Premier League club to the owners of the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday, and also announced they will have to take legal action against the existing American owners to force the takeover.

Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. said Tuesday that they would resist the bid from New England Sports Ventures, which owns the Red Sox, and a separate bid from Asia because both “dramatically undervalue” the 18-time English champions.

The Red Sox owners offered to pay about 300 million pounds ($477 million) for a club with debts of 285 million pounds ($453 million) that must be repaid by Oct. 15, a person familiar with the situation said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because financial details aren’t being discussed publicly.

The offer was accepted by the non-owner board members: Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton, who was hired by Hicks and Gillett in April to sell the club; managing director Christian Purslow; and commercial director Ian Ayre.

“I am delighted that we have been able to successfully conclude the sale process which has been thorough and extensive,” Broughton said. “By removing the burden of acquisition debt, this offer allows us to focus on investment in the team.

“I am only disappointed that the owners have tried everything to prevent the deal from happening and that we need to go through legal proceedings in order to complete the sale.”

Broughton said that New England Sports Ventures “best met the criteria we set out originally for a suitable new owner.”

“NESV’s philosophy is all about winning and they have fully demonstrated that (with the) Red Sox,” Broughton said. “We’ve met them in Boston, London and Liverpool over several weeks and I am immensely impressed with what they have achieved and with their vision for Liverpool.”

Before a board meeting Tuesday to discuss the offer — as well as the bid from Asia — the current owners unsuccessfully tried to remove Purslow and Ayre from the board and install one of Hicks’ sons and a financial controller from his company.

The turmoil comes after Liverpool lost to Blackpool on Sunday to confirm the club’s worst start to a league season since 1953. Liverpool hasn’t won in five matches in all competitions and is currently in the Premier League’s relegation zone. The team was also recently knocked out of the League Cup by Northampton, a club struggling in the fourth tier of English soccer.

Numerous protests by supporters have been staged at the team’s matches at Anfield, and a group of Liverpool celebrities has even appeared on a video playing on the Internet pleading with Hicks and Gillett to leave the club.

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