Hicks denial fails to quell uncertainty

The future of Liverpool remains dogged by uncertainty despite American co-owner Tom Hicks insisting he is not planning to sell his stake in the club.

The future of Liverpool remains dogged by uncertainty despite American co-owner Tom Hicks insisting he is not planning to sell his stake in the club.

The Texan billionaire claims he is completely committed to the Reds and has denied reports he has invited Dubai International Capital (DIC) to inspect the club’s accounts in preparation for a takeover.

However, it is understood Hicks has had talks with DIC even after a £350m refinancing package was announced on January 25.

There has also been a breakdown in relations between Hicks and American co-owner George Gillett, and DIC are considering making an offer for Gillett’s 50% stake in Liverpool, although no price has been agreed. They would also want some of Hicks’ holding so they had the controlling interest in the club.

Hicks will also be aware he is unpopular on Merseyside – his son Thomas Jnr was spat at and chased out of a pub by angry fans following Liverpool’s game with Middlesbrough at Anfield on Saturday.

Hicks’ statement denied any move on his part to sever ties, however.

It read: “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 UK 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.”

It appears no takeover by DIC is imminent but that the Dubai company, the investment arm of the Maktoum royal family, are keeping their options open.

The main problem preventing a takeover remains the price DIC are willing to pay.

It has been nowhere near the amount of money Hicks has been asking for – he would want to make a substantial sum out of selling the club.

Another hurdle to overcome is that the refinancing package announced on January 25 has loaded £105m of debt on to the club. Of that, £60m is earmarked to kick-start the new stadium development plus £45m for future player transfers and to meet the club’s working capital needs.

Finally, even if Gillett is willing to sell his 50% to DIC, they would still not have a controlling share so would want to buy some or all of Hicks’ stake to ensure they had a majority holding.

The takeover talk is being driven by the fact that the refinancing deal only lasts 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 in loans to finance the rest of the new stadium at Stanley Park.

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