x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Takeover at Anfield gathers pace

Following a Chinese interest, a Syrian businessman representing Middle East and Canadian investors is reportedly close to a takeover at Merseyside.

Anfield, the home of Liverpool. Supporters are uncertain if the club will have new owners any time soon.
Anfield, the home of Liverpool. Supporters are uncertain if the club will have new owners any time soon.

Yahya Kirdi, the Syrian businessman who represents a group of investors from the Middle East and Canada, said yesterday he was in the final stages of negotiations to buy Liverpool as reports mounted of a wave of bids to buy the English Premier League club. Kirdi said in a statement agreement had been reached "on all major terms including the purchase price, repayment of the existing bank debt ... and financing of a new stadium in Liverpool's Stanley Park.

"A formal purchase agreement between the parties is in the final stage of negotiation." However, Canadian-based Kirdi was also widely talked of as a possible purchaser in April without a deal emerging and the Liverpool Echo newspaper and other media reported as many as six potential bidders. Earlier, Chinese businessman Kenny Huang, who was widely reported to be close to a purchase earlier this week, issued a statement denying he had made any formal offer.

Huang, a Guangdong-born US citizen who already has interests in Chinese baseball and US basketball, had a statement issued on his behalf by his Hong Kong representatives. "Mr Huang would like to emphasise that he has registered interest in investing in Liverpool FC but has made no formal bid," it said. Huang, the Chinese businessman, seemed to be in pole position yesterday after approaching Royal Bank of Scotland, the club's major creditors, about taking over Liverpool's £237million (Dh1.837bn) debt to them.

His interest was passed on to Barclays Capital, who are handling the sale for Tom Hicks and George Gillett, the club's American co-owners, and it then emerged there were up to six other groups considering offers. Roy Hodgson, the Liverpool manager, will be eager for any potential deal to go through as quickly as possible to enable him to capitalise in the transfer window. Hodgson is steering clear of becoming involved in the issues surrounding a potential takeover but stressed whoever does come in has to put the needs of the club first. I was given the assurance I would be allowed to do the job in the right way and that has been the case since I have been here," said the 62-year-old. "I don't get involved, I leave it to the people who know what they are doing.

"But I can only hope if the club changes hands it goes to a group of people who have the club's fortune and future at heart and that they will do the right thing by the club. "I don't think anyone who has the slightest love for the club would want anyone coming in whose sole intention was not to keep up the high standards of the past and if anything make certain we can do that in the future. "If a new owner comes in it is very important he makes clear to the supporters of this club, a worldwide institution, that they are buying it for the right reasons ... That is what I would like to hear from the owners."

Under new rules on club ownership announced by the Premier League yesterday, all prospective owners are obliged to give the league 10 days' notice of a takeover and prove they have the funds to sustain the club. Liverpool and a number of parties contemplating a takeover have already contacted the Premier League to alert them that a change of ownership could be imminent. Kirdi claimed to have stolen a march on his rivals when

Kirdi is a resident of Canada and a former Syria international who oversees investments in Europe and North America on behalf of his investor group, said the statement. "Liverpool is a massive football club with passionate and proud fans in Merseyside and in every part of the world," Kirdi said. "With additional money to improve the squad and financing in place to build the new stadium, LFC will be on a solid foundation to compete in the Premiership and in Europe for years to come."

Liverpool's owners, Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett, who bought the club in February 2007 from former owner David Moores for 218.9 million pounds, instructed Barclays Capital in April to find a buyer. They have appointed British Airways chief Martin Broughton as chairman to oversee the sale. * PA