CONTROVERSIAL Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett are being kicked out of Anfield with losses of £144million — the price they will pay for dragging the club to the brink of chaos.
The revelation came on the day it was announced Liverpool had accepted a takeover bid from the owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball team.
The reviled Hicks and Gillett have launched a legal challenge to prevent the sale, which will be resolved in the High Court in the next five days, but Anfield insiders are confident they will fail.
Fans and players responded positively as details of the takeover by John W Henry’s New England Sports Ventures (NESV) emerged yesterday.
It is understood the Red Sox group would stick by under-siege manager Roy Hodgson and would aim to secure the future of the club’s top players.
Defender Jamie Carragher, the player who epitomises the spirit of Liverpool, welcomed the news: “Everyone knows it’ll be a good thing for the club. Hopefully it will be sorted sooner rather than later and we can start looking forward on the pitch.”
The stage is set for a dramatic finale to Hicks and Gillett’s deeply unpopular three-and-a-half year reign after it was confirmed a High Court judge will hear evidence from them and the rest of the board before deciding whether the club can be sold.
Fears of a drawn-out legal wrangle were swept away when it emerged the case will take place in the next five days and be concluded within a day.
Chairman Martin Broughton is confident of finally ousting Hicks and Gillett and believes Henry will take his seat in the directors’ box for Liverpool’s next Barclays Premier League game, at derby rivals Everton a week on Sunday.
Financing a recruitment drive to restore Liverpool’s credentials as title challengers is the first priority, but they will assess whether to try and increase Anfield’s capacity to 60 000 or, more likely, opt for a new stadium at Stanley Park.
A source close to the prospective new owners said they would study the “Arsenal model” — only borrowing to build a stadium and only spending money they generate.
The NESV group are clearing a £200m loan owed to the Royal Bank of Scotland, paying £40m to cover various other liabilities and a further £60m for debts connected to the new stadium project.
They have not borrowed a penny in provisionally acquiring the club but, equally, have made no allowance for the £144m that appeared as loans made to Liverpool by Hicks and Gillett the last time accounts were published in July 2009.
Hicks claims the bid is illegal, arguing it seriously undervalues the club and that he and Gillett still have the final say on any boardroom decision. Liverpool will counter both claims, with Broughton insisting he has written authority to complete a sale.
Should Hicks and Gillett finally be hounded out, they will go with a stinging parting shot from Broughton.
The Anfield chief said: “I recognise they will put up a stiff fight and I have to say I think it’s rather sad. While their legacy was never going to be good, this was the one, final opportunity where they could walk away with their heads held high, saying to the Liverpool fans, ‘We said we would deliver you the right owners, we have and we did it at great personal cost’. But they chose to suffer great personal cost and walk away humiliated. I think it’s a pity.
“For some reason, the fans don’t appear to think they ever put any money in, but that is wrong. They put in substantial amounts (£144m) and that will be lost, so it will be very expensive for them.
Broughton added that losing the court case would be more beneficial to Hicks and Gillett than RBS calling in the debt and possibly taking the club into administration.
While it is not Henry’s style to make wholesale personnel changes, sources suggest the future of managing director Christian Purslow — whom Hicks and Gillett tried to sack along with commercial director Ian Ayre on Tuesday — could come under scrutiny.
Under-pressure manager Hodgson appears to be safe, with Broughton adding: “They are very happy that this manager is the right person to take this club forward.
They talk enthusiastically about winning and investing in the team, stadium development and doing all the right things.
“I think they are going to
be pretty hands-on and they
have a track record of that.” — DailyMail.