Liverpool up for sale, Americans seek Kuwait deal
LIVERPOOL: Liverpool’s American owners have begun trying to sell the club and are involved in preliminary discussions with Kuwaiti tycoon Nasser Al-Kharafi, it emerged on Friday. The owners, George Gillet and Tom Hicks, have run into serious financing problems and are now prepared to sell all or part of their stakes provided a buyer matches their valuation of the business at more than £500 million. Hicks and Gillet have until July to refinance debts of £350 million linked to their £218-million acquisition of the five-times European Cup winners in 2007. Financial analysts have warned that they will struggle to do so in the current climate.
Sources close to the club confirmed that substantive talks have taken place between aides to Al-Kharafi and representatives of Hicks, with the discussions understood to have initially focused on the tycoon only taking a partial stake. In recent days however the focus has switched to a total takeover which both co-owners, who have rarely seen eye to eye in their time in charge, are understood to be seriously considering. Al-Kharafi reportedly has harboured a soft spot for Liverpool since he studied Business Administration at the city’s College of Commerce, although that did not prevent him from considering a takeover of Newcastle last year. Hicks and Gillet’s Liverpool reign has been dogged by controversy since the start and few Liverpool fans will mourn their departure, if it materialises. The Americans have been widely criticised for shifting the debt they incurred to buy the club on to Liverpool’s balance sheet and for failing to deliver on proposals for a 60,000-seat new stadium close to the current ground at Anfield.
The owners also alienated many Liverpool fans by holding what were supposed to be clandestine talks with former Germany coach Jurgen Klinsmann about possibly taking over from the Reds’ hugely-popular manager, Rafael Benitez. Plans for the new stadium, which would have cost over 400 million pounds to build, have been shelved indefinitely because there is no prospect of Hicks and Gillet raising the funds required. Relations between the co-owners touched a low ebb last September when Gillett described their partnership as “completely unworkable,” although they have since improved.
Gillett’s outburst came after Hicks had blocked an attempt by Gillett to sell the club to Dubai Investment Capital (DIC). Hicks subsequently refused an offer for his stake from his partner. Relations with other key figures at Liverpool are also strained. Hicks has made no secret of his desire to see chief executive Rick Parry sacked and Benitez is currently refusing to sign a new contract because of a dispute over who controls transfer policy, raising fears he may walk away at the end of next season. The Liverpool Echo newspaper meanwhile reported that a prominent European businessman had also expressed an interest in buying part or all of Liverpool. afp