Anyone would think a big game was coming up

How that great mind must have ticked over all day and all night as the day grew closer to Chelsea’s latest semi-final with Liverpool.

The two sides have been drawn together in Champions League semi-finals for three out of the four seasons Rafa Benítez has been in charge. In the other season they met at the group stage instead, and also had an FA Cup semi-final.

But the Champions League semi-finals have been particularly heartbreaking for Chelsea. In 2005 Luis Garcia scored a goal that to this day haunts the then manager Jose Mourinho. He mentioned it just about every time they played Liverpool, claiming it was never goal. He said it hadn’t crossed the line, and even though no replay exists to show if it had or hadn’t, he kept insisting it had been kept out. He kept quiet about the other option the referee had – had he not awarded the goal he’d have sent off goalkeeper Petr Cech and awarded a penalty.

In 2007 it went to penalties, and Liverpool went through.

So now, with two days to go, it was time to try and unsettle the Liverpool squad, manager, and fans. After all, we’ve nothing else on our minds.

And what a masterstroke it was. Surely nobody would see through it. The job fell to Joe Lovejoy, of The Sunday Times, ably assisted by the headline writer.

The headline was a masterstroke: “Chelsea line up summer bid to snatch Steven Gerrard from Liverpool.”

Already the smiles from Saturday’s win were starting to fade. Surely not?

The article began: “Chelsea will make a third attempt to sign Steven Gerrard from Liverpool if, as expected, Frank Lampard leaves at the end of the season.”

Oh no! Here we are about to play Chelsea, and now we find our captain’s off to join them in the summer again. He had a bit more: “Jose Mourinho, Chelsea’s former manager, was twice out of luck when he tried to buy the Liverpool captain. However, fortune may well smile on his successor, Avram Grant.”

Maybe there’s something in it though. Look at how much his value goes up per year: “Gerrard almost joined Chelsea in June 2004 for £20m, and again 12 months later, for £32m, after the Anfield captain reacted to the interest by submitting a transfer request.” So, we’re talking about his value going up by £12m a year, so the £72m is going to come in handy.

Hang on, can we stop him leaving? Joe has a clue for us: “He only changed his mind after his family received death threats and a fan burned his replica shirt live on Sky TV.”

And actually, Joe says, Avram Grant might not even be manager by then anyway: “Now Grant will try to make it third time lucky, if he survives in the job beyond the end of the season and, as seems likely, Lampard leaves to take on a fresh challenge.” Oh, and it depends on the departure of the slender Lampard too.

Lovejoy actually quoted Grant, talking about Gerrard: “Gerrard is a great player and a great person. For me, he is the player of the year in England, and maybe in Europe, because of the influence he has on the team. I like him very much as a player and I know him. He is a nice guy and an example to others. He plays against me, but he’s still my favourite player.” That’s it then. Never has a sign been so clear.

But just in case, Lovejoy had a bit more to add: “Grant added that he greatly admired the England midfielder’s versatility, pointing to his success in a new role, playing off Fernando Torres, Liverpool’s main striker. He said: ‘I’m not surprised; he has the quality to play in any position. In the one he is in now he probably feels more free.'”

As we speak, fans are digging out last year’s Gerrard’s shirts and a box of matches in readiness for the Sky Sports News cameras arriving at Anfield.

Lovejoy wanted to make sure they’d have some fans outside Melwood too, just in case the Sky cameras went there instead: “Reminded that Mourinho had tried to sign him twice, Grant said: “If you can bring him to me, I will be happy.”‘

We’ve already done the transfer fee Joe: “In terms of market value, Gerrard has the edge, if only because he is still only 27. Lampard will turn 30 in June.”

And the turmoil off the Anfield pitch is as good a way as any to add credibility to an incredible story: “Rebuffed twice, Chelsea believe they could get their man this time because Gerrard is known to be unhappy about Liverpool’s continued failure in the Premier League, and is appalled by the boardroom feud at Anfield and what the chief executive, Rick Parry, has called the washing of dirty linen in public.”

But just in case someone thought they’d take the shirt along to Anfield without matches, hoping someone from Sky had a lighter, Joe thought some out of context and old quotes would help matters: “It has also been noted at Stamford Bridge that in his autobiography, Gerrard admits to ‘looking long, and jealously, at Chelsea’. Grant’s comments are sure to add extra spice to Tuesday’s clash at Anfield.”

You can read more of Joe’s work here – http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/article732476.ece

In fact the story in the Sunday Times appeared on the web version of the paper on the same day Rick Parry blasted a story in the daily version. Showing some of the drive that he’s been accused of lacking he refuted quite clearly the claim that the club would have to sell Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel to pay debts.

The story appeared on Thursday night in the internet, Friday morning in print, and Parry issued a statement on the official website about it. He said: “The story in Friday’s Times newspaper was garbage.

“I want to make it clear in the simplest and most straightforward terms that the purchases of Fernando and Ryan were funded in the same way as every other transfer.

“The scope for any other interpretation is nil.”

Whether he’s been put up to it by one or other of the club’s management committee – co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett – or if he’s decided to act under his own steam isn’t clear. It’s a difficult act when it comes to finding a balance when denying stories in the media. As we’ve seen before, deny one story and a lack of a denial to the next one often suggests there is some truth. Often this is not the case of course, but it does raise suspicion.

And how he denied it. Perhaps he was wary of leaving anything open, like when he made the stadium downgrading “denial” in December. Not this time: “The scope for any other interpretation is nil”.

It would make an excellent slogan for a t-shirt in the club’s stores. But probably best we gloss over the stock in the club’s shops.

The story in the Times had said: “Liverpool must repay £31.5 million to banking institutions in little more than a year or risk having to sell Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel.

“The Times has learnt that Liverpool borrowed the money to sign Torres, the Spain forward who has scored 30 goals this season and has already become a firm favourite on the Kop, from Atlético Madrid last summer. The club then refinanced that debt on January 25, at the same time as they secured a £350 million refinancing package.

“Liverpool entered into an 18-month loan agreement with interest of 9 per cent – £2.8 million a year – with a letter of credit to pay back the £31.5 million at the end of the period.”

It went on to say that this would be an issue should the club be unable to either pay back or refinance the loan because, the banks “could” force them to sell Torres and Babel.

It had all the hallmarks of a muddled version of a story that has been being spun for a while now.

The figure of £31.5m happened to be exactly 9% of £350m. It seems some wires were crossed in communication.

The Torres fee was £18m, rising to something like £23m depending on various factors, and is complicated by the inclusion of Luis Garcia in the figures. He certainly didn’t cost £26.5m, a myth that still shows up in many reports, and probably started when someone saw the £18m fee quoted in Euros and assumed it was sterling. Babel cost around £11.5m.

The day this story was written was the day that many Liverpool fans’ anger had gone off the scale in the wake of a Tom Hicks piece on Sky Sports, He drank from a very new-looking LFC mug, in front of an open fire, with yawning children watching the Blackburn game with him, after which he commented on how Liverpool’s victory would upset Everton. It was seen by the majority of supporters – still opposed to Hicks – as nothing more than a stunt. Anger already simmering under the surface came out almost uncontrollably for many.

And it was in that atmosphere of renewed anger and mistrust that the article, headlined: “Fernando Torres future under threat as banks keep watchful eye on Liverpool“, written by Gary Jacobs and Oliver Kay, appeared.

It also claimed that it was “unusual for Barclays Premier League clubs to buy players in this way. Deals are normally funded using television income.” This seemed an odd claim to make, as clubs have numerous revenue streams that all go into the pot to pay out for whatever has to be paid out for. Whether that’s for star players or for shortfalls in souvenir mug takings, clubs will spend based on what comes in altogether.

The figure of £30m a year for the interest payments on the £350m loan first started to be aired back in December, when the Telegraph’s David Bond wrote an article which appeared under the headline of “Liverpool face funding crisis“. He certainly seems to have been well informed on the amount borrowed, because of course £350m is the exact figure that was eventually loaned out. He reported: “…they are now looking to borrow £350m to pay off a two-year loan with RBS worth around £270m, inject £60m of working capital for the ground and cover £25m of credit notes used to finance the summer purchases of Fernando Torres and Ryan Babel, again provided by RBS.”

That £60m figure for the stadium work also turned out to match what was official announced five weeks later, but the other figures did not. The RBS loan had already been stated quite publicly 9 months or so earlier as being for £298m, not £270m, and a figure of £45m was given for working capital and transfers in the statement Hicks made at the end of January this year.

But for this £30m annual interest amount to be true, LFC would need to be paying over 8.5% interest.

The original loan, of £298m, was payable at 1.5% above inter-bank base rates, and around the time of the takeover this was worked out as being 7.24%, an annual cost of £21.5m.

Using the same rate, the interest on £350m is £25.3m per year.

Back to the Times, and it said: “There was no official comment from the club last night.” There is now.

The PR people working for DIC have been claiming for a while now that there’s a deadline in place for Hicks to buy Gillett, or he loses his chance to block Hicks. While it’s possible proof has been seen, it remains the case that the only source for this claim seems to be the “source” working for DIC. The Times report commented on the Hicks interview that was so heavily attacked by masses of Liverpool fans the world over, and casually threw in the ‘fact’ that Hicks is running out of time: “The revelations came on a day when the turmoil at Anfield reached a nadir after Tom Hicks attempted to strengthen his grip on the club during an interview in which he demonised his enemies inside and outside Anfield. However, the Liverpool co-owner has only six weeks to raise the funds he needs if he is to achieve his goal of buying the club outright.”

Gillett had said amongst other things in response to Hick’s interview claims: “Tom needs to understand that I will not sell my shares to him.”

There was a slight acknowledgement of how Hicks is aiming to fund Gillett’s exit from Anfield: “Hicks was typically bullish about his prospects of raising the money – or, perhaps more realistically, finding the financial backing – but while he continues to explore his options with Merrill Lynch, his latest financial adviser, the clock is ticking.” The Texan’s aim is not so much borrowing the money to make himself 100% owner, but finding other investors to become minority shareholders. This seems to be the way Hicks intends to eventually take the debt off the club, a “goal” he spoke of on Thursday.

The same types of sources maintain that Hicks is due to hit troubles, with loans on his US sporting interests due for renewal, but this seems to be yet more of an attempt to raise the hopes, falsely, of those who want Hicks gone: “Hicks has denied rumours in the City that he is under pressure to refinance his Hicks Sports Group, which holds his stakes in various sports franchises in the United States, but a deadline is looming to buy Gillett’s stake, which is the subject of a rival bid from Dubai International Capital, the private-equity investment arm of the Dubai Government.”

It’s interesting to note that in the year between their abandoned first bid for LFC and the start of this latest attempt that the “private-equity investment arm” have had a website facelift. But at the same time, no doubt purely as a coincidence, they’ve rewritten the way they talk about themselves.

It’s not a good idea to have the fear-bringing words and abbreviations like “Leveraged Buy Out” or “LBO” in any description of a company who want the fans of the sport outfit they are trying to buy to like them.

DIC website January 2007 (from archive.org):

“Direct Private Equity Investments

Dubai International Capital selectively leads or co-leads Mid/Large Cap private equity transactions.

With a preference for Leveraged Buy Outs in Europe and North America , DIC focuses on opportunities where it can add value to the deal, and subsequently, the business. DIC has a particular interest in working as co-lead with or buying from top tier private equity managers.

Our first such investment was Tussauds Group, which we acquired in a £800 million secondary LBO in May 2005…

DIC website April 2008:

Private Equity

Dubai International Capital Private Equity is focused on secondary buy-outs and acquisitions of market leading companies in Europe and North America with a proven strategy and a robust management team.

Some of this division’s major investments include:

* The acquisition of Tussauds Group for £800 million, a leading operator of visitor attraction and theme parks, which was later merged with Blackstone’s Merlin Entertainments Group in 2007. Dubai International Capital retains a 20 percent shareholding in the combined Tussauds-Merlin Group…

So, where has that awful “LBO” term gone?

As for their acquisition for Tussauds, they bought it in 2005, as it says on their site for £800m. Two years later they sold it, in fact they just sold 80% of it, for £1028m. That’s a massive profit in two years on what many see as quite a significant name in the UK. £228m profit in two years. And, that’s on just 80% of it. They’ve still got 20%.

DIC are an investment company, who include Leveraged Buy-outs as part of one of their ways of doing business. They took Tussauds and made massive profit from it.

That doesn’t mean they’ll be looking to buy LFC for £400m purely with the aim of selling for much bigger money in a couple of years. But basing hopes they see LFC as more than just another money-making investment on an unproven claim that Sheikh Mohammed is a boyhood Red is dangerous. Assuming that known Red Sameer al-Ansari will be allowed to veer too far away from DIC’s rules on how they treat investments is again dangerous. DIC is not a hobby for the Dubai ruler. DIC don’t own his prestigious Godolphin racehorse operation, which is pretty much like a hobby for him.

There isn’t even any evidence he likes football, never mind LFC.

The Times also reported something about the pre-emption agreement that is said to have enabled Tom Hicks to block a sale by Gillett to DIC, but which would also be expected to have some kind of deadline. It said the “option is understood to expire 90 days after he [Hicks] was informed of DIC’s £200 million offer to Gillett, which was made on February 27. That period would expire on May 27, six days after the Champions League final in Moscow.”

It’s a claim that is repeated with regularity, and a massive amount of supporters are pinning hopes on it being true. It has come from DIC’s PR team, which doesn’t mean it’s false, but puts it into the category of claims that need to be taken with a pinch of salt. What goes against it being true is the way Gillett spoke of Hicks having merely “threatened to” invoke his veto. He said that in March, after the supposed February 27th offer. Time will tell. If Hicks hasn’t managed to get sole ownership by May 27th we’ll surely see signs of DIC taking Gillett’s half immediately. But if Hicks has the means to buy Gillett out as claimed then DIC could either already be gone, or facing a legal battle with Hicks to override any pre-emption clauses they feel they can fight.

So it remains to be seen just who the task of stopping Gerrard moving to Chelsea will fall to. Unless of course the whole story was designed purely to unsettle everyone ahead of Tuesday.

Surely not.

82 thoughts on “Anyone would think a big game was coming up”

  1. first of all,apologies as I appear to be making more come backs than Status Quo (if that was at all possible). call it a pleasant addiction if you like but I have tried to stay away from posting on this blog but resistance is a bit futile when it concerns our beloved club.

    Re: shareholding/pre-emption rights, I would echo your points. i have previously said that if Hicks showed the money (pardon the pun), then Gillett would have no alternative.

    Just a thought, but if Gillett breached his term of the agreement and actually refused to sell to Hicks (and say sold his shares to DIC, I am fairly confident that a court would probably take the view of compensating Hick for his loss of pre-emption right (as opposed to ordering, say Gillett to say specifically perform his part of the bargain). This is of course, not really sound legal advice but I wonder if Gillett/DIC have actually considered this from practical point?

    On a lighter note, did anyone notice Rob Beesley confessing as much as being the Chelsea fan that we have long suspected? Bless him, for the opening five/ten minutes he tried to be objective in his analysis of previous LFC v Chelsea matches but then gave the game away (…”we just were not attacking/adventurous enough”) and then of the verbals starting flying off about his clear dislike of all things Liverpool. Of course, I switched channels as my son wanted to watch something on a children’s channel (far more entertaining of course)

  2. Re: shareholding/pre-emption rights, I would echo your points. i have previously said that if Hicks showed the money (pardon the pun), then Gillett would have no alternative.

    Leanne…it was your points that I was echoing.

    Jim, I am of course going to avoid seeing clients tomorrow and embark on conducting a series of company searches and then revert back to you on the myriad of companies re: Kop holding. (This sounds a bit sarcastic…sorry).

  3. Jofrad: Thanks for the link.

    If Hicks does show up to the match on Tuesday night, this, as much as his SSN promotional video and the wide dissemination of the letter to Parry, undermines any credibility (not a word that comes naturally when speaking of the tall one) that he’s jus’ doin’ it fer the club. He’s not. He is doing it to exercise his powerful sense of entitlement. Deputy Dawg and others may argue that as co-owner he is entitled but it’s ridiculously naive to think it’s that simple (look what happened to his son at the Sandon). He knows his presence will incite anger and protest. Apart from anything else, wouldn’t that effectively undo whatever his PR machine is trying to accomplish these days?

    I’m guessing the level of political maneuvering that’s going to take place by all interested parties over the next six weeks (assuming that there is an end-of-May deadline) is likely to be staggering. Putting aside our delicate sensibilities for a moment, it will be a pissing contest to rival the world’s most spectacular fountains: legs will be lifted, territories will be marked over and over again, supporters will get splattered, Anfield will get covered in it.

    Jim can argue that it’s not realistic to live in a Disney storyline but I don’t want to believe even for a minute that Hicks will come out as victor. It’s inconceivable that the man of many maybes has the capability to carry the club forward on his spindly shoulders – he’s already toting around that rather sizable ego.

  4. ps – welcome back, raju. Glad you decided to go all Status Quo on us, though hopefully with much better hair.

  5. I’m no fan of Hicks but I find it amazing that he’s abused for *not* being at Anfield for the game against Arsenal, and now because he *is* planning to be there for the game against Chelsea! Maybe he just deserves to be abused :)

  6. It seems there is an offer on the table from DIC to buy Gillett out for between 60-75M, valuing the club at around 500M once the 350M debt is taken into account. This is enough for Gillett and he would like to accept the offer.

    However there is also an agreement in place between Gillett and Hicks that basically means Gillett cannot sell to DIC without Hicks’ permission.

    There is lots of speculation that if Hicks can match DIC’s offer then Gillett must sell to Hicks instead. I don’t think that’s been confirmed by Gillett or Hicks, correct me if I’m wrong. But if it is true, it means Hicks needs to find 60-75M to buy out Gillett, not 250M (cos the other 175M is already debt on the club or the holding company).

    The other line of thought is that Hicks has only so much time to find the 60-75M, otherwise Gillett can go ahead and sell to DIC anyway. I think 27th May is commonly cited as the deadline date. Again I don’t think this has been confirmed by anything Gillett or Hicks has said, so it must be considered suspect info.

    Regardless of whether Hicks can match DIC’s offer, Gillett has stated he will not sell to Hicks.

    Hicks has also frequently said that he is not selling.

    Which leaves us with the situation that Gillett wants to sell to DIC but Hicks won’t let him. And that’s where we are now, based on relatively reliable information.

    When Hicks and DIC were negotiating over the 51:49 split, Gillett was still in hiding. I think its fair to assume at that time Gillett was happy to sell to Hicks. Its what happened later that changed his mind, and it wasn’t death threats or interest of the club or anything like that.

    Hicks was happy to negotiate with DIC for a 51:49 split because, if he got his way, he would have got full control of the club for the additional purchase of a 1% stake. This would have been the perfect outcome for him (short of getting the full 50% for next to nothing of course). DIC were happy to negotiate for a 49% stake because they knew that 49% was better than nothing; they knew they needed to come to an agreement with Hicks, as well as with Gillett, even for the 49%.

    But DIC couldn’t come to an agreement with Hicks, which is where we’re still at now. Hicks basically called off the negotiations because DIC weren’t prepared to be effectively silent partners with a 49% stake – and who can blame them. And because by doing so Hicks essentially prevented Gillett selling his shares to DIC, Gillett countered by coming out of hiding and saying he will not sell any of his shares to Hicks. Cue impasse.

    Now DIC are waiting in the wings waiting for Gillett and Hicks to sort out their differences – via the courts if necessary.

    Something has to give or we stay in this situation indefinitely. And this is exactly what Hicks suggested would be the case the other day, and as far as I know, Gillett hasn’t said anything to dispute it.

    So if it does go to court, it must be on the basis of either:
    1) Gillett should be able to sell to whoever he likes if Hicks can’t match the offer, or
    2) Gillett doesn’t have to sell to Hicks if Hicks can match the offer.

    And the outcome of that legal wrangle is anybody’s guess, and probably very expensive. Something that all parties will probably want to avoid.

  7. Hop,

    If it was just a mere (!!) £60-75 million Mr. Hicks would have bought out Gillett by now. Unfortunately, not quite straight forward as that.

    re: 49-51% split, I stand by my point made a few days back (although I know you do not accept this explanation).

    Julie: definitely more hair and a bit more stylish as well ; )

  8. Anyone who is concerned about whether DIC would indeed be any better than Hicks should have nothing to worry about if DIC’s past track record is anything to go buy. The common example that is given to give us an idea about what DIC have achieved is their involvment in British horse racing. Heard an interview given by someone who works for the racing post (which is owned by DIC) and they said that DIC have been absolutely amazing participants of the British racing scene. They have ‘respected’ all of the traditions that come with British racing, and have spent an absolute fortune on their interests within British racing. The one thing is though is the Sheik who is the boss of DIC is an avid racing fan, but we are not so sure if he even likes football. If he likes football half as much as racing then the mantle for what club has the biggest spending power will deffinately move to LFC. These people have proven in British racing that they are great respectors of tradition, and nobody within that scene have got a bad word to say about them, they are very much respected for what they have done for British racing. I am not a racing fan but I do believe that British racing was going in a downward spiral until DIC got their claws into it.

  9. Is the Racing Post still owned by Dubai? I could be sarcastic here in pointing out how a Dubai employee bigging up his bosses is hardly a big endorsement!

    There’s no denial that the Sheikh has put a lot of passion into racing. But I don’t think any of his racing interests have actually gone through DIC.

    DIC is the investment arm, using leveraged buy-outs and other methods, of Dubai Holdings. It’s there to make money, not to make the people happy.

    It doesn’t mean it can’t make the people happy, but it’s wrong to assume they’ll go to any great lengths to do so.

    Even taking the best case scenario with DIC, even listening to what they’ve said themselves through their various little briefings and off-record comments, I don’t think anyone expects them to make us the club with the biggest spending power from the off.

    If they can grow our revenues, then yes, maybe, but for now I wouldn’t raise your hopes!

  10. I would love to see some constructive debate about DIC, without any anti-Hicks feeling muddying the waters if that’s possible. What are the pros and cons of the club falling into DICs hands? I have a number of concerns, which I accept may be unfounded. But everyone is so focused on Hicks that no-one is seriously discussing DIC.

    Sorry if I’ve got any of the following wrong, I’m happy to be corrected. I’m just hoping for some constructive debate on the subject.

    DIC is an investment company, a private equity company. It exists for one reason only and that is TO GENERATE CASH for the Ruling Family of the Emirate of Dubai. If people are worried about the Hicks quote about LFC throwing off cash to use for his other teams, they should be equally as worried about DIC.

    To my knowledge there has been no real statement of intent from DIC should they successfully acquire LFC. We have no idea what their plans might be.

    There have been comments in the press that DIC wouldn’t invest in players. Probably rubbish, but its a consideration.

    UAE is a dictatorship, although a benign one. As DIC is ultimately owned by the Ruling Family of the Emirate of Dubai there is a big threat of LFC being run in a totally undemocratic way. In fact I have heard that people may have to watch what they say so as not to upset the owners (no change there then). I also heard that in a recent index of democracy in the Economist, UAE ranked 150th out of 167, 2 places BELOW Zimbabwe.

    The people of UAE have a different culture and there is a risk they won’t understand or even care about our way. If they want to do something they will do it. By way of comparison, consider the ridiculous comments of Thaksin Shinawatra suggesting the job Erikkson has done at Manchester City hasn’t been good enough. If we thought Americans didn’t understand English football, what chance UAE?

    DIC has blatantly used the press for spin and lies as much as anyone else.

    I also understand that Israeli passport holders may not enter UAE. In fact, even having an Israeli stamp in your passport is enough to prevent entry being granted. This means that if LFC were to play a friendly over there or anything, Yossi Benayoun would not be allowed to go. Does this concern anybody else?

    The question of why DIC walked away last year but are back this year hasn’t been satisfactorily answered. Why weren’t they good enough for Moores and Parry last year? What were the concerns then?

  11. Just to briefly digress from the thread of Hop’s point above about debate on DIC (an excellent idea), I was doing a bit of googling (if it wasn’t a verb before, it is now) this morning on the Dallas Stars and the Rangers. I had just read a quote from US Republican leader John McCain who accused Democrats Clinton and Obama of teasing voters with the promise of “hope,” but neglecting to indicate that this “hope” would be funded by increased taxes…and it all sounded vaguely familiar.

    Of course, this is the financial reality behind Hicks’s claims of planning to paying off the club’s (really his) debt, of building a new stadium, and so on. Public money (through grants from local and national governments) and increased stadium revenues. (In browsing through blogs, one quote from a Stars’ fan stood out: “…Hicks did the same thing. Absurd ticket prices, parking and concessions on top of screwing the city of Dallas and its citizens out of more tax money.”)

    In an article from USA Today last May (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/soccer/2007-05-16-soccer-cover_N.htm)
    the observation was made that English clubs are not accustomed to the relentless pursuit of revenues through high ticket prices (including five-year contracts on season’s tickets and paying massive bonds upfront to secure seats in new stadia) and the exhorbitant costs of parking and food and beverage. As an example, to attend a Toronto FC match, the top price ticket (not including service charges) is $110CDN – this is for a two-year-old team in a 22,000-seat stadium. The top price for a Toronto hockey ticket is around $250CDN (it’s been a while since I’ve checked so it may have gone up again). Both teams regularly sell out all their matches. While the current exchange rate is roughly $2 to £1, the reality in terms of costs is on par (for example, a $5 breakfast here would cost £5 over with you). In this model, seats at Anfield would at least double in price.

    As much as I’d like to fling more mud at Hicks here, his sporting “franchises” are not unique in the North American sports markets. His teams gouge fans’ wallets just as much as any other team. But be forewarned that this is what he plans for Liverpool – it won’t be the club that funds his purchase, it will be the fans.

  12. “The question of why DIC walked away last year but are back this year hasn’t been satisfactorily answered. Why weren’t they good enough for Moores and Parry last year? What were the concerns then?”
    DIC walked away last year mainly as a result of their shabby treatment by Moores and Parry. They weren’t good enough for M & P because:-
    a) Hicks & Gillett offered £8m more
    b) M & P were guaranteed places on the board by H & G.
    It is truely amazing that Moores is now bleating to the media like the gullible idiot he is ” I believed what they said ! ”
    I have not the slightest doubt that if DIC buy LFC they prove to be superb owners. They are investing for the long term in view of the finite nature of their main asset, oil. They know that to generate income they need success on the pitch which is what we all want. I also get the impression that they have a strong feeling for our club.

  13. “I’m no fan of Hicks but I find it amazing that he’s abused for *not* being at Anfield for the game against Arsenal, and now because he *is* planning to be there for the game against Chelsea! Maybe he just deserves to be abused :)”

    Exactly, Hop. There will always be people who complain and whine, no matter what he does.

  14. Hicks is not in it for us to be thanking our lucky stars for his investment. He’s in it for the money.

    As for the spirit of shankly has pointed out today, Hicks said:

    “You don’t even have to win a championship every year to draw the fans. You just have to show you’re really trying. This business has to do with fan affinity and brand devotion. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with winning.” To now say he wants this club top of the pile. Or for a man who said: “When I was in the leverage buy-out business we bought Weetabix and we leveraged it up to make our return. You could say that anyone who was eating Weetabix was paying for our purchase of Weetabix. It was just business. It is the same for Liverpool.”

    No problem with him making money but his (un-challenged) interview with (not through, note the difference!) Sky News allowed him to ‘spin’ a line that he was in it for more than that.

    If Hicks wants to sit in front of a log fire trying to spin a line the least he could do is not take us for (total) fools.

    Surely, Jim, you must admit that his interview with Sky was as bad as the so-called lies/mis-trusts being said against Hicks. He did himself no favours.

  15. Jim – I take your point, but other examples where also brought up they included the redevelopment of Dubai i.e. the man made islands that are being made. What was also said by the employee of The Racing Post was that Dubai have just started the Dubai open and there are other sports events that are being taken to dubai.The point that the individual made was that Dubai is remodeling itself to make an income for Dubai for when the oil runs out, so if Liverpool football club was owned by DIC then DIC would want LFC to fit in with the vision that they are creating of their homeland, it will not do for them to have LFC ‘dammaging’ their reputation. But as you where saying DIC is trying to make an income for Dubai for when the oil runs out, so they will want LFC profitable.
    On a separate note, if DIC owned LFC then LFC would be in a very favourable position to market themselves in the middle east, which will also be a huge market for football to exploit.

  16. Assuming (dangerous thing to do) that neither Hicks nor DIC intend their ownership to be a short-term thing…

    They’d be out of their minds to aim for fourth place and the CL quarters every season.

    Profits first. I don’t doubt for one minute that this is the priority for either DIC or Hicks.

    And for a while I thought about how someone had pointed out the way that prize money for 4th and 1st in the league was pretty close.

    If you could guarantee that by aiming for 4th every season you’d always get there then yes, for a profit-minded owner it’s all you need to invest into the squad for.

    But aiming for 4th will bring you 5th or 6th sooner or later.

    To me, especially with other clubs finding more money to spend, you’ve got to genuinely aim for 1st from the off each season if you want to guarantee at least 4th.

    Properly exploited, forget prize money, how much money can CL participation bring you? You can sell different shirts, a whole different set of merchandise in fact, you can guarantee pretty much that you’ll be in with a chance of TV exposure around the world midweek 6 to 12 times a season.

    And in countries where TV companies are choosing in one night between their main match featuring LFC, Barcelona, Real, Milan, Inter, Chelsea, Mancs etc, you’ve got to have something extra over the others.

    They’ll look at ratings on past games, if a Liverpool appearance on their minor channel drew less viewers than their average figures then they’ll hardly rush to put Liverpool on their major channel next time.

    It’s the same with the league games, I’m sure. If we’re interesting, entertaining, in contention, we’ll get shown more.

    And the more we’re shown, in any competition, the more chance there is of viewers feeling the urge to go online and order another LFC sweatband or tea cosy or whatever.

    Just my thoughts on it, trying to be a bit hopeful after my general gloomy outlook of late, that whoever takes us over must know that aiming for 4th is a risky strategy. They’ve got to make us contenders, entertaining contenders, they’ve got to make us the team that little kids the world over are going to want to support when they hit that age where you just pick your team, the one you stick with for life.

    We’ve got to stop assuming that DIC or Hicks are any different in their aims, even if they’re different in their wealth, and different in their knowledge and experience. They both want to make a profit, as much as possible, but that’s not actually a bad thing.

    Making a profit isn’t incompatible with success, in my mind. Certainly not if you’re looking at the long term.

    But my mind’s not on the verge of taking over LFC (just as well to be honest).

    This is why I think, on reflection, that DIC will be able to say they want to see us winning trophies. You can’t buy a trophy, but you can’t win one for free either. So DIC will come out and tell us they want success on the field and they will try and invest in the squad to do so. Not because they give a crap about our happiness itself, but because they know our happiness can lead to that extra profit. Has Hicks worked this out too?

    I don’t even think either potential owner will go overboard on ticket prices. Both must have planned for the sort of figure they want to charge, it’ll be an integral part of their projections, but they need to try and ensure the ground is full of people who will sing and shout, preferably not about them. It makes it look good on telly! And that’s not going to come from banks of tourists who are also calling at Old Trafford and the Lake District as part of their 5-day stay in the North of England.

    In the US I bet you don’t have to win Championships every season to draw fans. You don’t have to win Championships every year in the UK to draw fans either. When was the last time Anfield wasn’t near capacity for a league game (excluding visitors)?

    I doubt that any US ‘franchise’ makes much money outside of its own state. I doubt the Stars take much from outside of Texas. I doubt the Canadiens take a penny from outside of Canada. And when the fans have turned it into part of their lives to turn up at game after game then they’ll keep going.

    In this country you’ve only got to look at Man City fans during their period of dropping down two divisions to see how loyal supporters can be when it comes down to it. Do you know one regular match-going Red who would admit (prior to the Hicks-Gillett days) that they’d stop going if we got relegated? I doubt it. Finishing 3rd, 4th, 5th isn’t going to stop the ground being full on its own.

    Season ticket holders aren’t going to give up their season tickets easily, even if it’s just in case they miss our first season winning the league. But it’s not the same with fans who watch on TV.

    Brand/fan devotion/affinity is something that sticks with a person through their life, but out there in TV land if watching your team stops being fun you’ll switch channels and sooner or later you might just give up. People don’t switch clubs, like they switch brands of cola or burger joints, they just stop bothering. In fact it’s possible in countries where they don’t have their own big teams that people will have fondness for different teams in different countries. A fan gets bored of Liverpool finishing fourth and playing crap so starts to focus on the Italian or Spanish team they also like. And that’s who gets their next £100 worth of birthday money.

    I know that’s not the case with all supporters who can’t physically go to a game, but there must be a large proportion like this.

    So DIC and Hicks surely must realise that investing for victory can actually be profitable. Mustn’t they?

    If not, then I really can’t see enough evidence for either of them to be good for us. They won’t invest in the squad unless they think it brings an appropriate return. Chelsea were probably unheard of as far as overseas fans are concerned and although they will still be some way behind us for now it’s no coincidence that winning the league a couple of times grew their popularity around the world.

    MR – The SSN interview certainly seems to have backfired. He’s not had any positive press out of it whatsoever has he? He seemed to make the LFC-favouring newspaper reporters go even more all-out against him.

    About the best I can think of for him is that he’s got his message across to some of the fans who either don’t read or don’t trust the papers, and don’t use the internet. That’s still a fair number of people.

    The LFC mug isn’t as big a deal to some people as others. Not falling for it isn’t the same as thinking it’s unquestionable proof that everything to follow was a lie. So for those who saw it, made up their own minds without anything else to influence their thinking, then maybe he had some success.

    But on the whole, no, he didn’t do himself any favours at all.

  17. I cannot say that i have heard what DIC are bringing to LFC, so on that point i cannot comment, However, I can comment on What H&G said at the time the Takeover was announced….A New Stadium, Players, pushing LFC Brand all over the World, Now what i was most interested in was more money for Top Class Players, and a Stadium, what rocked the boat for me was when Rafa said after the CL Final, that he was not happy because the money that was available to him…somehow wasn´t…. Hicks is now getting his stall out again and saying “Roughly” the same things, but he is not saying it to the Board members, Why??? why is he telling everyone else around the world?? We´ll see if on Tuesday, (if he does attend) he has a Boardroom meeting?? The man means nothing to me, and also alot of other people, and that will never change, i just have to put up with this Circus act from someone who “OWNS” my beloved club!!! I just await the day his name is no-longer associated with my LFC..

  18. Good points Phil.

    I remember that whenever the owners were pressed about spending on transfers it always seemed to be “We will support the manager” and “We won’t put a specific figure on it” and so on. I just – stupidly – shrugged it off. We should have made a point of it really. But then again, so many of us said why tell our rivals, or clubs with players we want to buy, just how much we’ve got to spend? So we took it as read there’d be money.

    Was Rafa complaining after Athens about there being no money, or about a certain person taking too long to help him spend it?

    With regards the stadium, this often-quoted “60 days” thing actually went like this –

    http://icliverpool.icnetwork.co.uk/0500liverpoolfc/investmentdeal/tm_headline=lfc-buyers-back-215m-new-anfield&method=full&objectid=18588568&page=2&siteid=50061-name_page.html

    And I may be wrong but they must have done the metaphorical equivalent of getting that shovel in the ground, because we’ve not heard anything about the grants being withdrawn have we?

    Hicks spoke a little later about what could be done –

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?xml=/sport/2007/02/10/sfnbon210.xml

    I think there’s enough there to defend the “60 days” claims, especially when it wasn’t Hicks who said “60 days”, but there is still the issue of the July version of the stadium.

    All in all, work should be underway now. But the price on that July version was too high, I very much doubt DIC will come in and put that one (which has permission) into action. But I still don’t know why they bothered to announce it when they hadn’t got the costs.

    Not sure I understand what you mean about him not saying it to the board members. We don’t actually know what he’s said to them.

  19. Hi Jim, I was implying that rather than say it to the Board Members, i.e..what he is saying now in the media, it would be better if he said it to the Board Members.
    Jim, just changing the Sublect a little have you read about a young lad called Liam on the RAWK forum, who at 17 years old has Terminal Cancer, and has only a few days left to live. Its a very touching story. I´m sorry to change the Subject but i thought it would be worth a mention!! If anyone watches the Match tomorrow, watch out for all the banners in the KOP for Liam, after reading all the messages on the Forum and the great lenghs everyone is going to on the Forum it makes me really pround to be a RED!!!
    LIAM YOU´LL NEVER WALK ALONE

  20. Jim, I was away for a few days on business. I didn’t watch the Sky News interview live. But I heard about it while I was away from non-LFC fans…and before you ask I wasn’t in Manchester or London – they weren’t impressed.

    Since I got back every single person with an interest in football, liverpool fan or not, who watched his Sky News piece were not impressed.

    My personal view – I saw it on Saturday via the internet for the first time – is that it was almost the ultimate ‘how not to win hostile fans over’. As for your idea that he may win non-hostile fans over, I can’t see it.

    My wife who does not follow Liverpool and to be fair to her does not have an interest in football, laughed when she saw it. Maybe she’s heard me talk down what Hicks has to offer to often. But even she couldn’t belive the visual transition from Hicks and Gillet’s initial press conference to now. She thought he was insincere and questioned why an owner would want to trash his CEO and the brand so publicly. I explained about Parry’s failings and the Boardroom split but she asked me to ‘name another business where an owner has rebuked an employee in such a way?’. I couldn’t.

    What worries me is that, yes, DIC and Hicks want to make profit and I really don’t blame them. But in Hicks’ case – besides the fact that I think he’s not to be trusted with LFC – he’s going to have to go to the uppermost of his financial limits to 100% own the club. If this is the case the banks will say no. But if they say yes, and he is at his upper limit, then like many homeowners struggling with repayments in the UK, he will have to squeeze as much out of his revenue streams to make cash – not only in the medium-to-long term but in the short term as well. That can only be problematic.

    Jim, one thing I will take you up on is this: what will we/I do if Hicks does own the club 100%? We/I’ll continue to support the club, of course. And he knows it. But that would be the same if Gillett or Hicks or DICs or uncle-tom cobbly owned it. The problem Hicks has got is that he will have limited time to win us in the UK and fans across the world over. If he doesn’t he could set the brand back many years. Just on this basis alone, I wouldn’t want to take that risk with our club.

    Just listening to BBC Five live talk about our Club, the Board, Rafa, the players and tomorrows game. Great show. For those that didn’t you can listen again on http://www.bbc.co.uk/5live and listen again.

    PS It was said that Gillett has invited DIC to tomorrows game. The drama in the boardroom continues. Let’s hope the players stay focussed.

  21. Is anyone here going to be at the game tomorrow?

    I was supposed to go but had to cancel the trip due to an unexpected event. :( What an awesome game this is going to be.

  22. Make of this what you will…

    “Liverpool co-owner George Gillett has invited senior officials from Dubai International Capital to be his guests at Anfield on Tuesday for the Champions League semi-final showdown with Chelsea.

    Although Gillett himself will not be able to attend the match because of illness, his party – including son Foster, a fellow director – will be there in force to welcome DIC’s representatives.

    It is a remarkable move by Gillett – who has wanted to sell his 50% stake in the club to DIC for several months – and comes just five days after his estranged partner Tom Hicks staged an extravagant PR exercise with a TV interview defiantly outlining his own plans for the future of the club.

    But significantly, after Hicks had made it clear he still intended to buy out Gillett, Colorado-based Gillett announced that he had no intention of ever selling his stake to Hicks.

    It is believed that DIC’s chief negotiator Amanda Staveley will be among Gillett’s party, along with Liverpool fan and DIC chief executive Samir Al-Ansari.

    Hicks could also be there, although significantly his spokesmen in the UK have been unable to confirm the Dallas billionaire’s movements.

    Hicks had made it clear at the weekend that he intended to be at Anfield for the first leg of the Champions League semi-final – but there are now doubts that he would want to be in the same directors box as DIC.”

  23. I think Helen Chamberlain summed it up nicely. ‘Would you want someone who doesn’t know who Jurgen Klinsman is to run your club? No.’
    I couldn’t have put it better myself.

  24. “I think Helen Chamberlain summed it up nicely. ‘Would you want someone who doesn’t know who Jurgen Klinsman is to run your club? No.’”

    Actually, AF, owners that don’t know much about the sport can often be the best kind. Owners that don’t know much about the sport are forced to leave the decisions to people who do instead of getting themselves involved with strategy and player decisions that they don’t know much about. Hicks knew next to nothing about hockey when he bought the Stars yet the team (which was not very good when he bought it) won the Stanley Cup a few years later.

  25. Well so far he’s made a pigs ear out of everthing he has done so far with regards to the club. So he hasn’t really given us much hope that he will be the chosen one who will leed us to Nirvana.

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