The takeover of Liverpool by Boston Red Sox owner John W Henry has moved significantly closer after it emerged the Premier League have rejected an attempt by a hedge fund to submit to their owners’ and directors’ test.
In a last throw of the dice to prevent the takeover by Henry’s New England Sports Ventures (NESV), current owner Tom Hicks is trying to sell his stake to Mill Financial, a USA-based hedge fund.
Mill Financial approached the Premier League last night but were rejected – the league told the fund they could only take instruction from the board of Liverpool who have already agreed to sell to NESV for £300m (€340m).
Hicks is trying to enlist Mill Financial - who already own George Gillett's 50% of the club - to pay the £280m (€318m) debt to the Royal Bank of Scotland by today's deadline and thwart the takeover by NESV.
NESV said that if Hicks did try to sell out to Mill Financial they would go back to the High Court.
AN NESV source said: “If that were to happen we would take this back to the High Court as soon as possible. Mill Financial would just be pawns of Tom Hicks and we believe this is all about Tom Hicks maintaining his control over Liverpool.”
John W Henry has also pledged to fight Hicks’ “last desperate attempt” to hang on to Liverpool, saying NESV has a binding agreement to buy the club.
Hicks has also removed the restraining order imposed by a Texas court preventing the club’s sale to allow him to sell his stake to Mill Financial.
Henry said on his Twitter account this morning: “We have a binding contract. Will fight Mill Hicks Gillett attempt to keep club today. Their last desperate attempt to entrench their regime.”
NESV are poised ready to send the money for their £300m takeover and believe they have the law on their side – their lawyers won a second successive significant victory yesterday when Mr Justice Floyd granted anti-suit injunctions to nullify decisions taken in the court in Dallas late on Wednesday.
The judge said his mandatory orders were not aimed at the Texas court but Hicks and Gillett to stop them taking further action there.
He was scathing in his remarks about the American co-owners’ conduct, which he described as “unconscionable”.
Liverpool’s independent chairman Martin Broughton, who brokered the NESV deal, was positive as he left the offices of their legal team Slaughter and May last night.
“We’re nearly there. We’ve still got to take away the restraining order,” said Broughton, who added he hoped to have a deal in place for Henry to attend Sunday’s Merseyside derby at Goodison Park.
“Mr Henry is very committed. My guess is we’ll have it done and he’ll be there - but we’ve got to get rid of this order first.”
A statement from Hicks' and Gillett's New York representatives today announced they would sue for "at least $1.6bn (€1.13bn)'' for "an extraordinary swindle''. The move suggests an acceptance that they will have to relinquish ownership of the club.
The statement read: “It’s an extraordinary swindle and it will result in exactly the wrong thing for the club and the fans.”
Steve Stodghill, the Texas attorney representing the duo, added: “This outcome not only devalues the club but it also will result in long-term uncertainty for the fans, players and everyone who loves this sport because all legal recourses will be pursued.
“Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett pledged to pay the debt to RBS so that the club could avoid administration that was threatened by RBS. That offer was rejected.
“It is a tragic development that others will claim as a victory. This means it won’t be resolved the way it should be resolved. My clients worked tirelessly to resolve these issues but RBS would not listen to any reasonable solution and the directors acted selfishly and illegally.
“Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett wanted to position this club for the future, but others have a different agenda.
“In truth, there is nothing positive from these events for Liverpool Football [Club]. That is exactly the opposite of what my clients wanted to achieve. ”