Court case goes on as Lim makes renewed bid

Court case goes on as Lim makes renewed bid

Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett feel their position has been strengthened by a new bid to buy the club by Singapore businessman Peter Lim but the High Court will decide whether negotiations should be reopened.

While the Royal Bank of Scotland were putting their case against the Americans before Mr Justice Floyd in court 16, Lim was going public with his improved offer after initially being overlooked in favour of New England Sports Ventures (NESV).

The billionaire is offering £320m (€365m) to clear the acquisition debt, the club’s existing debt and outstanding bank fees and, in addition, provide £40m (€45m) for squad strengthening in January – all with cash from his own personal wealth.

In effect it amounts to £20m (€22.5m) more than the sale price NESV agreed last week, as they have not made any pronouncement on transfer funds.

Tellingly, it does not offer any more money to Hicks and Gillett, whose share is now owned by Mill Financial after he defaulted on loans to the hedge fund, who stand to lose £144m (€164m) in the NESV deal.

That is the primary reason Hicks opposed the sale last week and tried to reconstitute the board by replacing managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre with his son Mack and business associate Lori McCutcheon.

Such a move was at odds with undertakings given to RBS when the club was put up for sale in April.

The bank, whose £200m (€228) loan is due for repayment on Friday, have gone to court in an attempt to get a ruling on which will back Broughton’s decision not to allow Hicks to change the board and proceed with the sale.

However, Paul Girolami QC, representing the American owners, said his clients “were not trying to throw a spanner in the works” of the proposed sale deal.

He said there had been other offers for the club which potentially were better than the one from NESV.

Opposing an immediate injunction, he said all the issues involved needed more time to determine and “should not be rushed into”.

“What has happened is that the English directors (Broughton, Purslow and Ayre) have gone forward with the NESV bid without properly considering alternatives when those alternatives at least appear to give better prospects.”

Broughton has always insisted the sale process was about finding the best bid for Liverpool and not necessarily the highest.

As a result last week they opted for NESV, who have a track record in sport as owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball franchise, rather than Lim.

Hicks’ vehemently opposed the deal, which led to what RBS argue was a breach of their previous agreements.

Richard Snowden QC, representing RBS, told Justice Floyd that the American owners now admitted “a calculated breach of contract” by seeking to change the constitution of the companies and the boards involved without the consent of the bank.

He said this was in order “to frustrate the sale necessary to repay the bank £200m by this Friday”.

The bank secured an injunction on Friday to prevent the Americans sacking Broughton or any other board members.

Snowden said Hicks had filed evidence that if RBS did not like what he was doing then it could enforce its security rights.

“This would derail the carefully planned process designed to achieve a sale of the club in a timely manner,” he added.

He said that plan would not carry the risk of Liverpool losing nine points which is imposed by the Premier League when a team goes into administration.

The judge was asked to impose injunctions on the owners requiring them to restore the original constitutions of the companies and managing directors, therefore removing the final stumbling block to a takeover.

Lim’s attempted return to the bidding process, despite NESV having believed to have a legally-binding agreement to complete the sale should the court rule in favour of RBS, muddies the waters slightly.

“I believe that if its massive debt burden can be removed, the club would be able to focus on improving its performance on the pitch,” said Lim.

“My offer pays off the existing owners’ bank acquisition debt and also frees the club of its own bank debt.

“If the board accepts this offer, the monies are available immediately thereby removing the threat of administration.

“The club needs to strengthen its existing squad. As part of this offer, I will be injecting £40m in cash into the club for Roy Hodgson to bring in new players during the upcoming transfer window. Liverpool needs to start winning again.”

Lim added in his statement: “I respect and admire Liverpool Football Club, which is steeped in tradition and history.

“I am committed to rebuild the club so that it can soon regain its position at the pinnacle of English and European football, where it truly belongs.

“This is why I have stepped forward with this offer.”

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