EMBATTLED Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillet were accused of “breathtaking arrogance” yesterday in court for “a calculated breach of contract” designed to delay the club’s sale.
Richard Snowden QC, for Royal Bank of Scotland, argued that the American pair tried to sack board members and replace them without the necessary authority, in order to block a sale to New England Sports Ventures. That, said RBS, was a breach of their corporate governance.
But Hicks and Gillett’s legal team countered by insisting they only did so after the board had broken the same rules themselves, by secretly lining up the NESV deal. RBS were tacitly involved, Paul Girolami QC said, and could therefore not accuse Hicks and Gillett of the same.
Top barrister Lord Grabiner QC, for Liverpool, dismissed suggestions of secrecy, saying chairman Martin Broughton had emailed Hicks on 3 October to inform him he expected a formal bid from NESV and requesting a board meeting on 5 October to discuss the offer.
Hicks tried to delay the meeting for a week, knowing the bid would expire on 5 October, Mr Grabiner added, and then carried out the disputed reconstitution of the board. He refused to take part in the board meeting by conference call on 5 October, which set the wheels in motion to accept NESV’s bid, but Mr Grabiner said a representative of Gillett did sit in on the call, scotching suggestions the owners had been kept in the dark.
Mr Girolami had earlier questioned the validity of the board’s agreement with NESV because Hicks and Gillett “had no idea” what happened in that meeting last week.