Reds owner Hicks clinging to stake

LIVERPOOL co-owner Tom Hicks has not formally rejected Dubai International Capital’s reported offer for the club but remains unwilling to sell his stake, a source close to the American has revealed.

It is understood that DIC made an offer for fellow owner George Gillett’s 50% share in the club earlier yesterday, which was extended to Hicks.

But associates of Hicks have reiterated the stance made public at the end of last month when he vehemently denied that his stake was up for sale.

Despite reports that DIC are willing to pay £400million (€522m) for the Merseysiders, handing Hicks and Gillett a profit of £25m (€32.6m) each, and take on all of the club’s debt, Hicks’ position appears as entrenched as ever.

He remains unwilling to deal with any parties who would ask him to accept anything other than majority shareholder status, and retains the ability to veto any sale of Gillett’s stake.

Although no formal statement is expected from the American, his stance remains the same as last month, when he said: “Reports that I am about to sell my stake in the Liverpool Football Club, or to invite DIC to examine the club’s books in preparation for such a sale — like other such reports planted in the British press in recent weeks by parties with their own self-interested agenda — are absolutely and categorically false.

“The reality is that I am personally, professionally and financially committed to the club and its supporters and that I will continue to honour that commitment to the best of my ability now and in the future.”

DIC chief executive Sameer al-Ansari confirmed yesterday he had held talks with the American pair, but a spokesman for the investment arm of the Dubai government would not confirm the size of the offer.

It is believed DIC turned their attention to Gillett after finding Texan billionaire Hicks an immovable object in negotiations, with al-Ansari mocking the valuation placed on the Reds.

“It’s no secret that we have been in discussions with the current owners,” said Al-Ansari.

“It’s not easy because the owners are in dreamland about valuations.”

Al-Ansari later clarified that one of the club’s owners “had come out of dreamland”, without giving further details, although it now seems unlikely they were referring to Hicks.

Another hurdle to overcome is that the refinancing package announced on January 25 has loaded £105m (€137m) of debt on to the club.

Of that, £60m (€78.3m) is earmarked to kick-start the new stadium plus £45m (€58.7m) for future player transfers and to meet the club’s working capital needs.

The takeover talk is being driven by the refinancing deal, believed to only last for 18 months, and so Hicks and Gillett are soon going to have to start renegotiating the debts.

Furthermore, they are shortly going to have to go back to the banks to ask for a further £300m (€391m) in loans to finance the rest of the new stadium at Stanley Park.

If Gillett does agree to sell, Hicks would have first call on buying his colleague’s stake. But that agreement is believed to only last for 90 days from when a bid is formally received.

DIC may have to accept that Hicks cannot sell now because he is raising money in the States by floating his entire sports empire — Dallas Stars, Texas Rangers and Liverpool.

Liverpool is the jewel in that crown, and he needs his stake in the club to remain part of his portfolio to raise further capital.

Hicks’ whole sporting empire could be put at risk if he sold his complete stake in Liverpool now.

It seems, though, that he will have to sell eventually. The £350m (€456m) re-financing deal means Liverpool will have to service £30m (€39m) a year of interest, and even that deal will need renegotiating again soon.

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