Hicks told to ‘state his case’ or quit

A HIGH Court judge has effectively told former Liverpool owner Tom Hicks to “put up or shut up” in his bid to sue over last year’s £300m (€356m) sale of the club.

The Texan yesterday lost his bid to overturn an injunction preventing him launching legal action in the United States without prior approval from an English court.

And Mr Justice Floyd, who made the ruling, criticised the delaying tactics of Hicks and co-owner George Gillett, both during the sale process and in the subsequent months.

“The reality of the situation is that the former owners have already started two sets of proceedings and openly asserted their intention to start more,” the judge said in his ruling.

“They will undoubtedly start more proceedings if allowed to do so. There is a real threat that those proceedings will be in the United States.

“I still find it difficult to imagine what possible real connection such a claim would have with any jurisdiction in the United States.

“The disputes concern an English asset, duties owed by English directors under English law to English companies and corporate governance arrangements governed by English law.

“I think the time has come when they need to state their case or accept that they do not have one.”

Hicks and Gillett originally tried to block the sale to New England Sports Ventures (now Fenway Sports Group) by sacking the English-based directors and replacing them with their own men.

When then chairman Martin Broughton, appointed specifically to oversee the sale, persevered, the American duo sought to stop it going through by applying to a court in Texas.

That led to an anti-suit injunction being secured in the United Kingdom which prevented legal action to halt NESV’s purchase.

Mr Justice Floyd said he agreed to that at the time “on the basis of what appeared to me to be the unconscionable conduct of the former owners in seeking to undermine the English proceedings”.

Hicks returned to court last week to seek the lifting of that injunction but failed, although the judge did allow him to make applications in the US in support of any proceedings in this country.

However, in another blow to Hicks, Mr Justice Floyd also dismissed an application to strike out or stay claims by Broughton, who is seeking damages against Hicks for his actions while owner.

NESV’s application to be allowed to join the Broughton action was granted by the judge, effectively meaning Hicks can be counter-sued by Broughton and NESV.

Those two and Royal Bank of Scotland, who were repaid their £237m (€282m) loan in the sale, remain confident Hicks’ threat to sue will fail.

“We are delighted that Mr Justice Floyd has granted the applications requested by Sir Martin Broughton, RBS and NESV and that the anti-suit injunction prohibiting the former owners from commencing legal actions against these parties outside the EU has been upheld and clarified,” a Liverpool statement read.

“Sir Martin, RBS and NESV continue to maintain that there is no basis to challenge the propriety or validity of any actions by them or any of those involved on their behalf in the sale of the club.

“They will continue to take all steps necessary to defend vigorously any litigation threatened or commenced by the club’s former owners.”

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