LIVERPOOL will stride into today’s potentially seismic High Court hearing confident their £300m deal with New England Sports Ventures is watertight, despite talk of a rival bid from Asian billionaire Peter Lim.
Singapore-based Lim, whose initial bid was snubbed in favour of NESV’s offer, made it known yesterday that he has not given up on buying the beleaguered Premier League club and could return with a better offer.
But City A.M. understands that Liverpool’s board fully expects that the legal case due to begin today at the Royal Courts of Justice will result in their right to sell the club being upheld, despite opposition from embattled owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
And that scenario would mean NESV, owners of baseball’s Boston Red Sox, completing a purchase for which they have already signed a legally binding agreement – leaving Lim out in the cold.
Matters are complicated by the fact Hicks and Gillett are facing two legal challenges to their authority: one from their main creditors, Royal Bank of Scotland, and another from the Liverpool board.
Today’s hearing sees RBS argue that Hicks and Gillett have breached a contract signed with them in April, when a refinancing arrangement for their holding companies was agreed. RBS say Hicks and Gillett are not entitled to change the composition of the board and was granted an injunction to that effect on Friday.
Hicks and Gillett sought to remove managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre last week as the board discussed NESV’s bid. That move would have given them a majority in opposing the sale; with Purslow and Ayre in situ they are outnumbered. Hicks and Gillett will lose £140m if Liverpool are sold to NESV, but face administration if they do not repay their £237m debt, plus fees, to RBS by Friday.
Aside from the RBS case, Liverpool’s board is also seeking a declaratory judgement in the High Court that would formally endorse its right to sell the club. No hearing has yet been scheduled.