SBD/Issue 19/Franchises

NESV's Liverpool Purchase Could Be Heard In Court By Friday

NESV's Purchase Of Reds
Being Fast-Tracked In Court

Liverpool attorneys "could be in court as early as Friday as they seek to derail Tom Hicks and George Gillett's attempts to block" New England Sports Ventures' purchase of the EPL club, according to Harry Harris of ESPN SOCCERNET. The EPL is "expected to approve" the $477M purchase (all figures U.S.) tomorrow, and Liverpool reportedly is "applying for the case to be fast-tracked through the High Court." Hicks and Gillett are "plotting their own sale of the club to give them back" their $230.2M investment, and "want the courts to block the takeover." Liverpool Chair Martin Broughton is "confident he and the other two England-based members of the board have acted appropriately but they will not be able to have that confirmed until the issue is thrashed out in court." Broughton believes that Hicks and Gillett "will not be successful in blocking the sale due to the written undertakings they made when handing over control of the club" (ESPNSOCCERNET.com, 10/7). A Shearman & Sterling LLP team "led by London-based partner" Creighton Condon is advising NESV and Red Sox Owner John Henry on the purchase. Condon is Henry's "longtime go-to counsel" (AMLAWDAILY.com, 10/6).

GOING DOWN FIGHTING: In London, Paul Kelso notes Hicks last night "vowed to fight any action vigorously." He said, "We legally reconstructed the board and the board does not approve of the transaction. That’s why there are laws and courts." With Hicks and Gillett's loans to RBS "due to be called in on Oct 15 there is a strong chance that the club could change hands by the end of next week." NESV has promised to pay about $320M to "wipe out the loans that were loaded on to Liverpool during the Hicks and Gillett takeover." The prospective ownership group also will take responsibility for a $59M "debt facility related to the new stadium project, a working capital facility" of $37M, and pay off a further $64M of "liabilities including debts to Liverpool City Council." The deal is expected to "reduce Liverpool's annual interest burden" from $40M to just $3.2M and leave Hicks and Gillett with losses of about $230M in "a little over three years, hence their attempts to block it." The proposed deal would be done "without sending Liverpool FC into administration, thus avoiding a nine-point penalty" (London TELEGRAPH, 10/7). Hicks in an e-mail said, "The Board has no interest in selling the club at less than 50 percent of Forbes value. The court will decide" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/7). Broughton in a statement said, "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" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/7). More Broughton: "Their legacy by any stretch of the imagination was never going to be good. This was the one final opportunity where they could walk away with their heads held high" (GUARDIAN, 10/7).

BRAND NEW: In Boston, Kevin Cullen notes Henry and other NESV officials "know that Liverpool is one of the most internationally recognized soccer brands in the world," and their purchase of the club is "as much about selling hats and jerseys as it is about putting people in seats at Anfield." It might "also be about TV." It was "only last year that ESPN began showing Premier League soccer games live from England," and there is "gold, and licensing deals," in England (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/7). In London, Henry Winter writes under the header, "John W Henry Can Smell Profit At Liverpool But He Must Win Over The Fans First." It is "all about the brand" for NESV, "all about the potential profitability of the badge." For many London fans, "Liverpool is their life," which is why Henry and NESV "must move shrewdly in winning the fans over." Winter: "If Henry and his business partners want to reap a rich harvest they must tread carefully, distancing themselves from their loathed compatriots Tom Hicks and George Gillett, getting the bulldozers into Stanley Park, not just promising a spade in the ground. Any pledges must be swiftly met" (London TELEGRAPH, 10/7).

Some Liverpool Fans Wary Of Another American
Company Buying Team From Hicks, Gillett

FOOL ME ONCE ... The GUARDIAN's Owen Gibson notes some Liverpool fans are "already wondering today whether the club was simply swapping one set of unwanted American owners for another." Broughton said, "I can understand why there might be an instant reaction about them being American. But being American is not a problem, leveraged ownership of a football club is the problem" (GUARDIAN, 10/7). Broughton yesterday insisted that "all American investors should not be tarred with the same brush" as Hicks and Gillett. Broughton also noted that NESV is "making a cash investment which would render" Liverpool's $59M debt "virtually the lowest in the Premier League" (London INDEPENDENT, 10/7). In Toronto, Cathal Kelly notes Liverpool fans "wanted at least one of two things -- English ownership which understood the club's heritage; or another Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire who ploughed hundreds of millions into Chelsea FC with little concern for profitability." But with Henry and NESV, "they've gotten neither." The prospective ownership "will not spend for its own sake, and need Liverpool to be a money generating concern" (TORONTO STAR, 10/7).

DON'T FORGET ABOUT US: Red Sox officials yesterday "did not respond to questions about how the purchase of Liverpool would affect the baseball team, if at all." Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino did issue a statement that read in part, "It is not an undertaking of the Boston Red Sox and will not divert our resources or focus on the job at hand." In Boston, Peter Abraham notes Liverpool "plays at antiquated Anfield stadium, which opened in 1884, and NESV has promised to improve the facility and add seats, much the way Fenway Park has been renovated" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/7).

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