Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks has issued a statement in the wake of the stories in today’s press which had made fresh claims that Dubai International Capital (DIC) were close to a takeover at LFC.
Hicks’ statement reads: “Reports in the UK media that I am about to sell my stake in the Liverpool Football Club, or to invite DIC to examine the club’s books in preparation for such a sale – like other such reports planted in the UK press in recent weeks by parties with their own self-interested agenda – are absolutely and categorically false.
“The reality is that I am personally, professionally and financially committed to the club and its supporters and that I will continue to honour that commitment to the best of my ability now and in the future.”
It’s unlikely to be a coincidence that we saw these fresh reports the day after the sports pages had been full of the story relating to Tom Hicks Jnr’s visit to The Sandon on Saturday. As well as the negativity towards the club most of those stories contained, they also made it quite obvious that the Hicks family were from being desperate to get out of the club has had so often been suggested previously. After watching a league match at Anfield, the owner’s son had visited a pub in the heart of Anfield, mixing with supporters and talking fairly openly about the future before deciding to leave in advance of things turning nasty. From there he went and met other supporters as part of a pre-arranged get-together and spoke some more. This was hardly the sign of a family who couldn’t wait to sell up and move on.
The more cynical could say that the visit to the match, then the Sandon and from there the Malmaison were all carefully-planned PR moments, but that’s not being exactly fair. Certainly the appearance at the match was going to attract the cameras, and the appearance at the Sandon was almost guaranteed to be fairly big news, even if only locally, but the third part of the day wasn’t intended to be publicised.
But the publicity was enough for the DIC PR machine to swing into action. At least three newspapers reported very similar facts, and although it’s not unheard of for papers to copy big stories from each other after seeing first editions, that wasn’t the case here. The report in the Telegraph, from David Bond, had a little more meat on it than the others, talking about deals being struck with banks, and Bond has been first to break stories relating to DIC before.
Analyse the Hicks statement and you can see how it can be made without actually contradicting all the days’ reports. For example, Hicks says: “Reports… I am about to sell my stake… are false.” This could be read as referring to “all or any part of my stake”, but that’s not what it says. Today’s reports also suggested that there still hadn’t been an actual offer made, or a price agreed.
The statement also calls the reports false when they claim Hicks was about to “invite DIC to examine the club’s books in preparation for such a sale.” But being pedantic, it isn’t Hicks that would be inviting DIC to look at the books if Gillett was selling his half.
One thing that does seem certain is that the details in all of these stories has come directly from DIC or their agents, and Hicks isn’t such a fool that he can’t see through this: “Like other such reports planted in the UK press in recent weeks by parties with their own self-interested agenda,” his statement says. Certainly if DIC are looking to do business with Hicks, they seem to be going about it the wrong way, because this statement sounds like it was written by someone who is quite annoyed, to say the least.
Although it’s been pretty much an open secret since the finance deal went through, this statement further makes it clear that George Gillett and Tom Hicks are no longer working in partnership, and also that Gillett wants to sell up. The statement says “I” rather than “We” and there is no reply at all from Gillett.
Gillett may well be looking to sell, may have even agreed a price informally and be now allowing DIC to see the books before making a firm offer, but Hicks is not looking to go quite so quietly, quite so easily. DIC look like having to accept the fact that Hicks is going to be a partner of theirs if they do buy Gillett out.
If DIC and Hicks are to be partners, in whatever split it turns out to be, they really need to sort out their differences, because it was differences in opinion and differences in vision that played a big part in the demise of the Hicks-Gillett partnership. That demise sees Liverpool in effect a rudderless ship, with only the most basic of decisions allowed to be made by Rick Parry. Any big decisions can’t be made – Gillett and Hicks aren’t speaking to each other, so how can they agree on important choices relating to the club’s future? Sami Hyypia has spoken about his desire for a new contract, but who can actually offer him that? If the lawyers finally resolve Javier Mascherano’s situation in terms of his purchase breaching Premier League rules or otherwise and actually draw up a contract, who will sign that massive document? It’s a little early to be talking transfers now at the sort of level that requires the owners’ input, but deals can be struck now if all parties are willing, to take effect in the summer, but Liverpool haven’t got anyone around to get involved in rubber-stamping such deals.
And the renewal of player contracts or deals to make loan players permanent is actually tiny money when compared to the new stadium. It’ll cost £17m including wages to make Mascherano a Red for the next four-to-five years. It’ll cost far less to give Sami Hyypia another 12 months to make it ten special years. If those decisions can’t go through, what hope do we have of seeing progress on a stadium that could cost as much as £350m?
The sooner Gillett is gone the better, his attitude since the beginning of the year quite frankly stinks. He’s not shown any desire to be involved, to fight his corner or to help the club in any way. He’s called his want-away son back home again so he doesn’t have to deal with the people his father betrayed. The sympathy many fans had for him was probably unfounded in hindsight – his enthusiasm always seemed to be the greater of the two owners, Hicks always being more reserved, but this enthusiasm always seemed to accompany some promise that was never delivered. “Snoogy Doogy” was perhaps the most memorable example of Gillett’s enthusiastic bullshit, the bullshit that seemed to endear him to fans.
Gillett and his son have two seats on the six-man board, Hicks and his son have two also, and the remaining pair are taken up by David Moores and Rick Parry. A third of the board is in hiding. The rest might not be in hiding, but are still despised by a large majority of fans for differing reasons. And as things stand, the board aren’t able to act in a way that would get the fans back onside, back believing that the club is heading in the direction it should have been heading in originally.
Gillett has to go. Hicks isn’t looking like leaving, not at the sort of money DIC are offering. Whatever is happening between Hicks and DIC – and clearly something is happening – it’s time both parties worked harder to meet in the middle. DIC and Hicks look like being partners, they need to learn to get along with each other. Only then can Liverpool Football Club move forward and away from the mess of the last 12 months.