LIVERPOOL’S prospective owners New England Sports Ventures last night eased supporters’ fears by promising their takeover will leave the club debt-free.
The American group, led by hedge fund millionaire and Boston Red Sox owner John Henry, have pledged that their estimated £300m bid will wipe out any existing debt at Anfield. And, crucially, they have vowed not to load any extra borrowing onto the club in order to complete the buyout, as current owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett did in 2007.
Hicks and Gillett still hope to delay or overrule the board’s decision to sell to Henry and NESV, but the bitter dispute now seems certain to be decided in court.
Confirming their bid had been accepted, the American group said in a statement: “NESV wants to create a long-term financially solid foundation for Liverpool FC and is dedicated to ensuring that the club has the resources to build for the future, including the removal of all acquisition debt.
“Our objective is to stabilize the club and ultimately return Liverpool FC to its rightful place in English and European football, successfully competing for and winning trophies.”
NESV’s bid of around £300m would clear all the debt owed to the Royal Bank of Scotland, including fees for late payment that Hicks and Gillett have incurred. Their loan is due for repayment on Friday 15 October, and time is running out for them to refinance.
Highly significant is NESV’s promise not to load further debt onto the club. Hicks and Gillett’s borrowings have crippled their ability to invest in Liverpool, contributing to the team’s dip in performance. Last season they failed to qualify for the Champions League and they are currently amid their worst to a new campaign for 57 years.
Manchester United’s owners the Glazer family have also attracted huge criticism for their leveraged buyout of the club in 2005. Old Trafford debts are estimated to be around £700m and spending on players has been slashed in the last 18 months.
Liverpool are, however, likely to escape a points deduction even if RBS call in Hicks and Gillett’s loan, as the club itself is solvent.