Dubai International capital have released a statement referring to talks being in advanced stages with Liverpool’s co-owners for a stake in the club. This comes on the day referred to in a leaked letter from Tom Hicks to DIC suggesting a meeting take place between the two parties.
After all of the leaks, quotes from unnamed sources and quotes from the likes of Tom Hicks and Amanda Staveley, today’s statement from DIC seems quite formal.
It said: “Dubai International Capital states that contrary to recent press reports, it has not bought a stake in LFC (Liverpool FC). Dubai International Capital confirms that it is in advanced discussions with the co-owners of LFC but that no agreement has been reached on price or shareholding percentage.”
A meeting was expected to take place today, as seen in a letter leaked on Friday night from Tom Hicks to Sameer al-Ansari. The leaks also talked of a 60-page document sent by Hicks’ Casey Shilts which made up the Hicks expectations for a shareholders’ agreement.
It was on Friday night that Amanda Staveley, DIC’s negotiator and representative, spoke of a willingness to come on board as joint owners at 49% providing that the shareholders’ agreement could be renegotiated. “Subject to renegotiation of a partnership agreement and subject to the usual stringent minority shareholder protection rights we would be prepared to accept a 49 percent shareholding in Liverpool FC,” Staveley said in a statement. “We have decided that this arrangement provides the best possible solution to the situation and would be in the best interests of the club and their loyal fans.”
The large numbers of fans who are adamant that Hicks has to go based on his past conduct as owner were disappointed at the idea of DIC taking just 49%. It seemed at face value it would make Hicks even stronger than before, and made DIC’s claims of having massive passion for the club seem a little far-fetched as they looked to be willing to be silent partners, sitting waiting for a return on their money.
Perhaps it was with this in mind that Staveley later said: “Tom Hicks knows that in the long run we will be 100 per cent owners of the club, but we are prepared to play a waiting game. We will be able to pay the price for the financing of the club and construction of a new stadium.”
Now, behind the scenes, the DIC lawyers will be working with Hicks’ lawyers on a deal that suits both parties as far as their powers as part owners are concerned. Hicks wants control, but DIC are hardly likely to hand the money over and wait for an update on how Tom has been running the club in six months’ time. Both parties would like to be in control, and it’s this that will be the sticking point in talks.
George Gillett will sit at home and wait for his easy money.
The Hicks camp claims it has other potential investors waiting in the wings, but there have been no leaks whatsoever of just who these may be, or how serious they are at the idea of investing, or even if they have the means to invest at the level required to pay Gillett his quick bucks. Hicks plus friends is seen as a far worse scenario by Liverpool fans than Hicks plus DIC.
These other investors have to either convince George Gillett to sell to them, or hand their funds over to Hicks for him to buy the share in his own name. They are not ready yet to invest, the “fix” that Hicks spoke about last week not yet in place. It’s these delays that seem to be encouraging DIC. The fact that Hicks is willing to speak with DIC suggests that the mystery other investors are either finding it difficult to raise funds – a worry in itself – or are reluctant to get involved in a deal where their partner is subject to massive amounts of anger from fans. The presence or otherwise of competition to DIC is what will play a huge part in negotiations.
As for how these other investors would be involved, Hicks had to try and allay fears his baseball team Texas Rangers have that their own teams would be partly for sale. It was thought one way Hicks had of raising funds was to sell shares in the parent Hicks Sports Group or even to sell parts of his other teams off. He says that whatever deal he does, it’s not going to affect the Rangers: “Absolutely no impact whatsoever. That’s new equity coming in, and that in any way won’t affect the Rangers.” He claimed in that interview, unquoted, that Dubai were one of just five groups looking to join him in his plans, but insisted he’d not be the majority owner.
Another bargaining tool Hicks has is the pre-emption agreement that allows him first refusal on any offer for sale made to Gillett, and also reportedly the option to buy one percent of the company from Gillett and with it control of the club. Suggestions last week pointed to legal means to get round this agreement if necessary.
Certainly the DIC statement, talking of “advanced” negotiations is a sign of progress. The mention of no agreement on price or the split of ownership suggests there’s still some negotiating to be done yet.