Former Liverpool chairman David Moores has defended the deal struck with Tom Hicks and George Gillett for the sale of the club three years ago.
Moores insists the correct procedures were undertaken to allow the two Americans to effect their takeover, although he admits more could have been done to look into Hicks’ background instead of just allowing Gillett to vouch for his business partner.
However, he blames the pair for going back on assurances made at the outset and also claims Liverpool may have had a “lucky escape” in not selling to Dubai International Capital, who were the preferred bidders until Hicks and Gillett came in with a better offer.
The American pair assumed control at Anfield in March 2007 with promises to bring improvements without loading huge debt on the club and build a new stadium in Stanley Park.
However, Liverpool now have debts of £237m (€279m) - the debt of parent company Kop Holdings is £351m (€414m) - and a new ground is no nearer being constructed.
“I have always acted with the very best interests of the club at heart and if I’ve made mistakes – which I know I have, and not solely with regard to Gillett and Hicks – then they have been honest mistakes,” Moores said in a letter to The Times.
“We looked long and hard for the right person or institution, we followed up every lead.
“It would have been easier just to take the money, cross our fingers tight and hope things worked out, but we dug deep into every file and asked all the tough questions, knowing the answers might scupper any deal.”
The DIC deal collapsed because they were unhappy Liverpool were still listening to offers despite their bid being named as the preferred option on December 1, 2006.
On January 30, 2007, Gillett and Hicks’ offer was accepted by the board and Moores went to DIC to inform them he wanted 48 hours to mull things over.
When Moores refused their request for an immediate resolution they pulled out, leaving the way clear for the Americans.
“With hindsight, we may have had a lucky escape there as Dubai is not the buoyant market it was in 2007,” added Moores.
“We moved ahead with Gillett and Hicks with all due speed (even now I cannot accept that we were hasty), and here is an element of the process I accept we could have handled better.
“We had looked into George Gillett’s affairs in detail, and he came up to scratch. To a great extent, we took Tom Hicks on trust, on George’s say-so.
“Gillett and Hicks produced a very substantial offer document containing all the key assurances re debt, the stadium, investment in the squad and respect for Liverpool FC’s unique culture, traditions and legacy.
“It was impressive stuff and it did the trick.
“We retained Price Waterhouse Coopers to advise us on the deal and they received assurances from Rothschilds, one of the most respected and respectable names in global finance, who vouched for both Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
“Could we have done more? Probably, though under those circumstances, in that time frame, probably not.
“We did our due diligence on Messrs Gillett and Hicks and if we’re guilty of anything it is that, after four years searching, we may have been too keen, too ready to hear the good news that George and Tom had passed their tests.
“Ultimately, the deal we signed up to was laid out in unambiguous terms in the share offer document. That is a matter of fact.
“At the end of the day you can carry out any number of checks with infinite degrees of scrutiny and certainty, but I doubt there’s any procedure available that will legislate for a guy you’ve come to trust looking you in the eye, telling you one thing and doing the exact opposite.”
Moores “hugely regrets” selling to the Americans – who last month put the club up for sale with a reported asking price of £600m (€707m) – and called on them to stop “punishing” fans and bring their tenure to a swift end.
“In holding on and holding out, they risk damaging a sporting institution of global renown,” added the former chairman and lifelong Reds fan.
“If they have any conscience or nobility they will stand aside and allow new owners to take over the club for its future benefit and that of its lifeblood, the club’s fans.
“I believe that, at best, they have bitten off much more than they can chew.
“Giving them that benefit of the doubt – that they started off with grand ideals that they were never realistically going to achieve – I call upon them now to stand back, accept their limitations as joint owners, acknowledge their role in the club’s current demise and stand aside, with dignity.
“Take an offer, be realistic over the price, make it possible. Let the club go.”