LONDON // The ownership of Liverpool finally changed hands yesterday after New England Sports Ventures (NESV), owners of Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox, completed their protracted takeover.
The transaction ended a turbulent period for England’s most successful club, with the final hurdle only cleared yesterday when a Texas court lifted a temporary restraining order blocking the £300 million (Dh1.76 billion) sale.
Emerging to face the throng of reporters, John W Henry, the new owner, said: “We’re here to win and we’ll do whatever it takes.”
The club’s former co-owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, had bitterly opposed the takeover and lawyers for the pair threatened further legal action yesterday with a claim for US$1.6 billion (Dh5.876bn) in damages.
“This outcome not only devalues the club but it also will result in long-term uncertainty for the fans, players and everyone who loves this sport because all legal recourses will be pursued,” said their Texas lawyer Steve Stodghill in a statement. “Mr. Hicks and Mr. Gillett pledged to pay the debt to RBS so that the club could avoid administration that was threatened by RBS. That offer was rejected. It is a tragic development that others will claim as a victory. This means it won’t be resolved the way it should be resolved. My clients worked tirelessly to resolve these issues but RBS would not listen to any reasonable solution and the directors acted selfishly and illegally.”
Hicks ended his three-year reign by claiming that “the British Establishment” conspired against his attempts to block the club’s sale to the owners of the Red Sox. Hicks said Royal Bank of Scotland refused to allow him to repay Liverpool’s debts to prevent the sale to New England Sports Ventures, which he says undervalues the club.
RBS was partly nationalised in 2008, with the British government taking an 84 per cent stake after it was brought to the brink of collapse by the global economic crisis.
“This was a conspiracy of the British Establishment – Royal Bank of Scotland – our chairman (Martin Broughton) and our highly compensated employees,” Hicks said.
The deal came on the day set as the deadline for repayment of the club’s debts to RBS and Wells Fargo, which have risen to around £285m.
“We are committed first and foremost to winning,” said Henry, the financier who heads NESV. “We have a history of winning, and today we want LFC supporters to know that this approach is what we intend to bring to this great club.”
Amid the takeover turmoil, Liverpool are mired in the relegation zone after their worst start to a league season since 1953.
“As every Liverpool fan knows, the most nerve-racking way to win a match is by a penalty shootout,” Broughton said. “But in the end, as long as you get the right result, it’s worth the wait. We’ve got the right result.”