A Saudi prince wants to buy half of debt-saddled Liverpool, in a deal worth up to £350m (€382m)that would mark the latest buy-in by Gulf investors in an English team, according to reports.
Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah al-Saud – who chairs Saudi holding company Fama Group and the F6 sports investment firm – was quoted by the Saudi Al-Riyadh newspaper today as saying that “we are seeking, at present, to own a 50% stake in the club”.
“The value of the transaction, which is nearing resolution, will be between £200m and £350m,” Mr al-Saud was quoted as saying.
The comments come on the heels of an F6 statement released yesterday that said Prince Faisal had signed a memorandum of understanding with one of Liverpool’s American co-owners, George Gillett Jr, as well as Richard Petty Motorsports. That deal envisions in part setting up sports academies in the kingdom and the broader Gulf region.
Liverpool, which is owned by Mr Gillett and Tom Hicks, is about £245m (€267m) in debt.
The American co-owners have been working to bring down Liverpool’s debt, and the club’s managing director said earlier this month that the US duo had paid £60m (€65m) of the debt burden when the loan used to buy the club in 2007 expired in July.
Calls for comment from Fama Group were referred to F6, which sent a general statement about the investment deal with Mr Gillett.
If the deal with Prince Faisal goes through, it would mark the latest investment in British football by investors from the oil-rich Gulf region.
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family, bought Manchester City for an undisclosed sum a year ago, ending former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s control of the club.
The team has splashed out on new players since Sheikh Mansour took over, raising hopes that the long underachieving club could move up in the Premiership and grab a spot in the Champions League.
Sulaiman al-Fahim, the Emirati businessman who helped broker the Manchester City takeover for Sheikh Mansour, has also taken control of his own Premier League team – Portsmouth.
Mr al-Fahim said he completed his takeover of the club last month, though not before the team was forced to sell several players to meet debt payments. Mr al-Fahim formerly headed an Abu Dhabi property company and hosted an Apprentice-style reality show in the Middle East.
The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is also rumoured to be interested in purchasing a top-tier European team, although no specific deal has surfaced.
Also, Dubai’s Emirates airline significantly boosted its name recognition in Britain by negotiating a multiyear deal in 2004 worth more than £100m (€109m) to attach its name to Arsenal’s stadium.
The company’s ties with the club were strengthened earlier this year when Arsenal opened a football academy in Dubai.