SBD/Issue 132/Franchises

Are Hicks And Gillett Focusing Efforts On Keeping Liverpool?

Gillett (l), Hicks (r) Facing July Deadline
To Repay $650M Loan
With the news EPL club Liverpool co-Owner Tom Hicks is looking to add investors for his Stars and MLB Rangers franchises coming "close on the heals of the revelation" that fellow Liverpool co-Owner George Gillett is reviewing his own portfolio, it is "becoming more obvious with each passing day that Gillett and [Hicks] are concentrating their efforts on keeping" the EPL club, according to Pat Hickey of the Montreal GAZETTE. Gillett and Hicks "borrowed heavily to finance the Liverpool purchase two years ago and are facing a July deadline to repay a $650[M] loan from the Royal Bank of Scotland." The two men have "received an extension on the note but the bank has its own problems." However, Liverpool is an "iconic soccer brand" in the EPL, and the league "appears to be recession-proof." Hicks also noted that the team is "expanding its brand in Asia" (Montreal GAZETTE, 3/27).

TREAD LIGHTLY: NATIONAL POST's L. Ian Macdonald writes owning the Canadiens and Bell Centre "may be a profitable private business, but owning them is a public trust." Macdonald: "It's not just about hockey, and how the Habs are doing. ... Nor is it about the bottom line -- the Canadiens may be a valuable brand, but they are a low-margin business. Owning the Canadiens means tending the pride of les glorieux, serving a public that regards the Canadiens not so much as sports team as religious cult." There are "much more important businesses than the Canadiens, but no more important sporting or cultural institution in Quebec." Macdonald writes this "should give [RIM co-CEO] Jim Balsillie pause." Balsillie is reportedly a "lifelong Habs fan, and has been shopping for an NHL team," but "even with the best will in the world, he would have to ask if owning the Canadiens would be beneficial to the RIM brand." Macdonald: "Would ownership by an avid Habs fan from Ontario be sympathetically portrayed in the media, or viewed as a hostile takeover?" (NATIONAL POST, 3/27).

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