Hicks sells Rangers, LFC still in limbo

Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks has agreed the sale of Texas Rangers baseball franchise to a consortium headed by Chuck Greenberg and current Rangers president Nolan Ryan. Although Hicks will still retain a stake in the franchise he will no longer be on its board.

Hicks Sports Group announced on Saturday night that it had “reached a definitive agreement” to sell the MLB franchise to the Rangers Baseball Express, the Greenberg-Ryan investment group. Ryan ended his playing career at Texas Rangers and was described as a “legendary pitcher” in the announcement.

It has taken some time for the process to reach this stage. Hicks first said he was willing to sell a minority stake in the franchise in March last year, two months later admitting that he would now consider selling a majority stake. There is still some way to go before the sale goes through; Major League Baseball have to approve the deal as do some of the lenders that Hicks Sports Group have used. The statement also says that there is some “completion of financing” to do.

There was a 30-day period of exclusivity for the consortium to come to a deal, but having passed that deadline the negotiations continued and the deal went through. Hicks said: “Together, we have worked exhaustively since last month to attain this agreement. It’s a complex business deal that positions the franchise positively for the future.”

Another of the Hicks family’s investment interests, Ballpark Real Estate, will hand over 153 of the 195 acres of land it controls around the Rangers’ Ballpark stadium and the Dallas Cowboy’s stadium. This is being exchanged for “cash, notes, and an ownership position in the team”.

Greenberg will become Managing Partner and CEO of the new Rangers setup, With Ryan continuing as president. Other major investors in the new setup include billionaire Ray Davis (not of The Kinks) and the Simpson family (of Fort Worth not Springfield). Davis and Bob Simpson will become co-chairmen. Simpson was reportedly made $300m dollars richer last month when his XTO Energy merged with ExxonMobil.

For Hicks there’s a continuing role in the new organisation, but in what is said to be a more ceremonial or honorary role as Chairman Emeritus.

The amount of money involved has not been disclosed but speculation suggests the figure is somewhere between $500m and $570m (£310m and £350m) and enough to cover the Hicks Sports Group’s debts of around $525m. Hicks bought the Rangers for $250m in 1998.

Greenberg praised Hicks in the statement “Nolan and I greatly appreciate Tom Hicks’ willingness to work beyond the deadline to complete the deal and his support for passing the torch from the Hicks family to our group. His actions speak eloquently to his commitment to serve the best interests of Rangers fans and the community.”

Greenberg didn’t use the word ‘custodians’ to refer to the change of ownership but no doubt his words will be closely analysed by Rangers followers: “We are fortunate to be assuming the stewardship of a franchise poised for greatness. The tremendous foundation of talent that has been assembled on both the major and minor league levels, combined with our passionate commitment to achieve excellence in every facet of the organization’s operation, and the pent-up thirst for success we observe from our fans every day, creates the opportunity for the Rangers to become one of the great franchises in baseball.”

Meanwhile Hicks has also sold one of his holiday homes, a three-acre estate in the Aspen area of Colorado. The sale went through for $18.5m, below the original £20m asking price but still a massive return on the $1.03m he paid for it in 1995.

Described as consisting of “a main house and a guest house totalling 11,000 square feet” the properties were sold furnished. Hicks was reported to have said the sale was due to his family taking their vacations elsewhere in recent years. The property is about 100 miles away from the base of his fellow Reds co-owner George Gillett Jnr in Vail, Colorado. There was no love lost between the pair during a prolonged and public battle two years ago over ownership of Liverpool.

Hicks is still the owner of the Dallas Stars NHL side, but Gillett Jnr sold his stake in the Montreal Canadiens late last year. Meanwhile Liverpool’s financial troubles continue, and continue to be shrouded in secrecy.

The transfer budget has seemingly been withdrawn, Rafa Benítez having made a profit on transfers since the turn of last year and the new stadium, despite vague promises, is still to get underway.

A credible offer is believed to have been put to the club’s owners at the end of last season that would solve the problems with funding for the new stadium. This is believed to have been turned down flat by current LFC Managing Director Christian Purslow, with the impression given that he would be able to solve those problems himself.

Six months on – and with the club’s struggles on the field emphasising the financial difficulties they are under – there is still no sign of that funding and the club remains in limbo. Fans are still in the dark about what is really going on at the club behind the scenes. Is the club’s transfer spending being halted by the owners or by Purslow? Why not be honest about it? Where has the money gone, if it’s not gone on servicing the debt?

As both owners seem to be taking steps towards getting everything in order with their US interests, the man hired to sort out their Liverpool interest seems to be making very little progress. Worst of all, after billing himself as a lifelong Red, he doesn’t seem to be telling the supporters the open and honest truth about what is going on at the club.

A year’s worth of pay increases for a few players doesn’t explain why the annual transfer funding has dropped so dramatically. A simple explanation would have perhaps lessened the pressure on the manager. It would have been far better than shadowing him at press conferences, a move that made it look like there was a fear he might reveal something about what was really happening at the club.

Had that proposal for stadium funding been taken up in the close season, how much of a boost would it have been to the club and its supporters to finally see some progress on construction of the one thing that justified the club being sold in the first place?

Liverpool FC was sold so that it could afford a new stadium, a stadium that would bring in extra funds for new signings and help in the battle to get back on top of the league after all these years of missing out. Instead we sit here knowing that we’re now a selling club, hoping for the best with free transfers and wondering how long it will be before one of the big names is sold to help fund some replacements.

Clearly the club’s owners have been busy sorting out those North American interests, trying to take them out of limbo – now it’s time they got back to work on their interest here in England.

20 thoughts on “Hicks sells Rangers, LFC still in limbo”

  1. if we take the 5 of the clubs we’re now seeing an (almost) clear split between the Americans at our Club and the Glazers at United, and the Yanks at Villa and Kroenke at Arsenal. Two owners reviled by their fans and another two who just let their managers get on with team affairs while they operate behind the scenes positively at the moment. how did we manage to get one of those short straws, and could Hicks and Gillett yet come round to joining Randy Lerner et al by being celebrated by supporters at the wider football community. I can’t see it, but they seem to now have the money to deliver on their ‘snoogy doogie’ promises!

  2. Why the nastiness over Purslow? Did you miss the record£80m sponsorship deal with Standard Chartered Bank he got for the club, which will start this year?

    LCF are about £240m in debt, almost a third of Man Utd’s. Unlike clubs without sugar daddies, LCF reduced it’s debt by £60m recently because the owners put more money in. You also chose to ignore the club made over £40m pre-text profit too. How many others are showing such good figures from the business?

    It’s pretty obvious the club has made great strides financially in the last six months. The financial mess around the world is sorting itself out, funding for the new stadium is already being worked on. What more do you want? Magic fairies?

  3. With all due respect Paul I’d like to pick up on a couple of points.

    The record sponsorship deal – did Mr Purslow get that or was it down to Ian Ayre? And is it £80m? Or is it £80m if certain conditions are met? We don’t know, because the club hasn’t even officially revealed the amount, let alone the terms it’s payable under.

    The owners put more money in recently? Did they?

    As for the new stadium funding – why turn down out of hand a genuine offer for finance last summer when we still have no sign of getting any funding in place? We need investment in our main product – that thing that happens on the pitch – and more so given the injury problems. Instead we struggle on being made to look like paupers by Sunderland.

    Magic fairies? Unless they’re available on a Bosman there’s no chance.

    There’s no nastiness towards Purslow – just a desire for him to come clean on where the money’s all gone, how it’s been split, and why we turned down the offer just mentioned. We lost a lot of momentum last summer, and if that was for a greater good then why not explain what that greater good really was?

  4. LCF are about £240m in debt,
    —————————————-

    I think you’ll find that figure is for Kop Holdings and Liverpool FC has a seperate debt of 86m and rising.

  5. The owners have turned the club into a laughing stock, a genuine laughing stock.

    Whether we like to believe it or not we are no longer a force to be reckoned with. Our history maybe deceives people in to thinking we are.

    A top club wouldnt need to sacrifice player purchases into to pay off the interest on its debt.

    A top club wouldnt be trying to sign players from Sunderland on loan nor would it be relying on players like Degen and Voronin to end the 20 year title drought.

    And as the the owners and those they employ outside of the management structure I woulnt rust them for one second.

    Action speak louder than words and the off the field actions at the club for the last 3 years have been nothing short of farcical. The club really stands at its lowest point ever and Im just afraid how much lower this club can fall

  6. “The record sponsorship deal – did Mr Purslow get that or was it down to Ian Ayre? And is it £80m? Or is it £80m if certain conditions are met? We don’t know”

    Ofcourse we know! Every bloody deal in football is stated as the maximum thatcan be achieved if a club reaches those targets. Do you seriously think Carlsberg pays us the ‘stated figure’ in their deal if we dont win the PL or CL or FAC?

    As for “the new stadium funding – why turn down out of hand a genuine offer for finance last summer when we still have no sign of getting any funding in place” so your supposed confidant told you all the conditions, repayments, interest etc etc? And you expect any owner to just accept it?

    A shit offer is still a shit offer whether its genuine or not. I dont like the 2 owners anymore than the next fan but using unsubstantiated claims to make yourself look good is the work one would expect from a lazy journo.

  7. At Jeff our club is normally addressed as LFC not LCF, how can u comment on club matters when you cant even put the club s name properly.

    At ratcatcher, Jim is a well respected journo please pay respect. Are you a Liverpool fan???????
    Or u are part of those two sugar daddies PR machine?
    or better still you r not hicks jnr a????

  8. Jim Boardman suffers from that classic disease of those other than top class journalists, where he clearly has some inside information and almost certainly has formed professional relationships within the hierarchy of the club, and unfortunately it affects the balance of his posts He was very pro Hicks not so long ago, now he is having a go at Purslow and extolling Ian Ayre. Putting his Hicks post and this one together, is it Ian Ayre, a Hicks appointee ( Purslow was not a Hicks appointee ), who is providing the information for Jim, because Jim should go into the PR industry for him.

  9. Morning Roger. First of all forgive me because at first I wondered if you were a certain internet troll that likes to wander around various Liverpool internet sites causing trouble before moving onto the next one.

    But even if you weren’t here for the right reasons it would still be important to try and address your points.

    Balance: I’ll own up to one thing that will always alter the balance of what I say or write – I’m a Liverpool fan. I try as hard as I can to be open-minded about everything I hear to do with Liverpool, but it’s always hard to do that without some bias towards the club. But I do try hard to be open-minded, otherwise I might fall into that trap that we’ve all fallen into at some stage in the past few years: letting our love of the club blind us to the facts.

    That’s caused me problems over the past few years, mainly from people who seem to have the good of LFC low down in their priorities. They are so sure that they are right that they will go to extraordinary lengths to try and show it, to the extent where they tell as many lies as the people they’re so vocal about!

    You mentioned Ian Ayre there. Where does this myth come from that he is a Hicks appointee? He was appointed before Hicks and Gillett fell out, he was a joint appointment. I’ve no idea if he’d done work for either of them before he came to LFC, or if either of them had even met him. I don’t know what criteria they had for picking the final candidate out of all those they (presumably) interviewed. But if one of them was uncomfortable with him then he would not have been appointed.

    His colleague Nash is also a joint-appointee, but is also often painted as aligned to Hicks. Again, where does this come from?

    Ayre is as much a Hicks appointee as Sammy Lee or Kenny Dalglish, and nobody would accuse either of them of being somehow helping Hicks with his evil plans to destroy LFC. Well, not many would, but there’s always someone who’s a bit of a crank.

    Just before Christmas the then-board of LFC voted that Ayre and Nash be appointed to the board of the club. Why would Gillett allow two extra seats on the board to both be given to people who are under the control of Hicks?

    It’s no secret that Hicks wanted Parry out – if Ayre was as pro-Hicks / anti-Gillett as the rumour-mongers would have us believe then I don’t doubt for one minute that Ayre would have gone at the same time as Parry, just to keep Gillett happy.

    I personally think Ayre has done a far better job of bringing in money from commercial deals than anyone who preceded him – but we’ve never had anyone at that level purely working on the commercial side of the club before. Maybe someobody else could have done even better, I don’t know. If we’re talking purely about the extra money he’s brought in then I can’t really fault him. If we’re talking about the balance between getting the money in and doing what’s right for the supporters then I can think of things to be critical of – the hotel-plus-ticket-plus-programme scheme with Thomas Cook for example.

    Just to set the record straight, Ian Ayre isn’t providing me with information. I’ve no idea how Ayre feels about Purslow or vice versa, and I’m sure I’d never get anything other than a professional response if I tried to find out. And – in my opinion – Ayre is unlikely to be aware of the details or even the existence of the stadium finance offer I mentioned. I personally don’t think it even got as far as being discussed by the board (although Ayre wasn’t on the board at that time anyway).

    What I will say is that I get “information” from various sources, directly or indirectly, and it’s often this mix of sources that makes it stand out that something’s amiss. You compare notes and inconsistencies jump out. So you look into it all a little bit more, or to go back to those sources for clarification on a point that might have seemed minor when first mentioned – and all of a sudden there’s a massive hole in what’s being said.

    Christian Purslow was – I believe – helping in the search for investment a long time before he was appointed as MD of the club. Was he working for “the club”, Hicks, Gillett or himself at that time? Gillett and Hicks certainly weren’t getting on with each other at that time, a time when their differences were being aired in public. A time when DIC/Dubai had – or thought they had – persuaded Gillett to sell his half and were working on getting Hicks to join him. A time when Hicks was looking for someone to help him buy Gillett out so he could take control.

    I still have the same questions now really – who is Purslow working for? Himself? Midocean? Gillett? Hicks?, Gillett and Hicks? Or LFC? What’s his priority?

    We’ll find out soon enough of course, but I can’t help but wonder how different this season might have been even if he’d just owned up from last August that the transfer budget had been slashed to nothing instead of trying to make us fall for his explanation that the missing £35m went on improved contracts.

    I’d like to see him interviewed by one of those “top class” journalists you mention because so far he’s not faced anything like the kind of grilling that might tell us the truth about where the money is going.

  10. Jim, first of all, thanks for the reply to my post.

    Regarding your opening paragraph about an” internet troll”. You seem to have an issue with someone. Thats fine, but its nothing to do with me.

    The reason i write the posts is because as a Liverpool fan once in a while i like to respond to an article ( ive probably posted 3 comments on all sites in the last year ) Whether that constitutes your idea of “being here for the right reasons” i dont know.

    About balance. Im a Liverpool fan, as are the other people who post on this site. We speak with passion about the club, but hopefully it doesnt affect our balance and judgement in what we write, and as a professional journalist that should not be a defence for your articles.

    You wrote an article a couple of years ago about Hicks and how he could be a force for good at the club, and you backed the article up with a defence of his actions so far at Liverpool and contrasted it with the behaviour of Gilette. This article got right under my skin when I read it, and it still does. Hicks, with the overwhelming majority of the fans was public enemy number one at the time, justifiably so. He still is with myself and most Liverpool fans ( Gilette is equally as bad ), and I couldnt see how you could write this piece. I dont know your sources or if it was just your opinion at the time, but I couldnt believe what I was reading. Don King and Max Clifford could tell me the moon is made of cheese until their blue in the face and I still wouldnt believe them and I believe it was equally as clear what Hicks intentions where at the time.

    Generally I like your articles and your the one feature writer I look for on this site. But when I saw your article on the 24th Jan my reaction was your going against the majority view of LFC fans again. Most fans think Purslow has done a good job, granted we dont have access to the same information as yourself. But if you write an article against the commonly perceived view of the fans, you should expect to be challenged on this ( isnt that what these sites are here for anyway, to get a better understanding ), and back your comments up. My personal view is you may be right ( I dont know ), but you have taken your eye off the target. Purslow, is not the issue, its the owners who are the issue. Regarding Purslow turning money down in the summer, if its not the right offer then thats fine. I believe Liverpool Football Club is a blue chip business in football and for the forseeable future there will always be interest. Lets wait for the right offer. Ok we may not do anything this season or for a couple of years ( I hope im wrong ). Thats painful, but I can take that, as long my children, nephews and nieces can enjoy supporting a successful Liverpool in 10 and 20 years, with the right owners in place.

    Back to where I started the “internet troll”. I can take Man U, Chelsea and other fans posting snipe comments at Liverpool and although they may be hurtful at the time, they are soon forgotten. But when you have one of your own, especially someone in a priveleged position as a feature writer on a Liverpool site writing an article about Hicks that he would have been proud to write himself, thats like a hard kick in the groin. So Jim forget about the “internet troll”that irritates you and think of the damage done to efforts to get rid of these two clowns by that kind of piece. Liverpool fans need to stick together not be divided.

  11. Hi Roger,

    Yes, that first paragraph was written because I’ve had people going out of their way to cause trouble here and elsewhere. One example was a visitor who registered under four or five different names and then backed himself up in his own arguments with me! I know you’re here to talk about the Reds and not to cause trouble, but at first reading first thing this morning I wasn’t sure. Apologies for that.

    I’ve had a lot of comments about that article on Hicks, maybe I should read it again because I’ve not read it for some time and whenever anyone talks about it they sound like they’re describing something different to what was intended.

    I’ll not go into it all again now but this was written at a time when Hicks was getting all the blame, Gillett was being painted as an innocent victim of Hicks’ bullying ways and DIC were the knights in shining armour come to wipe out our debt, build a new stadium and buy loads of players. I tried to point out that Gillett was far from innocent, that DIC were far from knights in shining armour.

    The biggest memory I have of that time is the rather chilling realisation that it was George Gillett who’d been the driver behind both the decision to sack Rafa and the decision to replace him with Klinsmann. I never said he’d done this without the blessing of Hicks, but I was trying to point out he’d not been bullied into it all by Hicks either. At that moment in time a lot of people still thought of Gillett as someone who was well-intentioned but out of his depth, someone who’d never have contemplated sacking Rafa but felt he had to so he could keep Hicks happy. This was a time when people thought the Sheikh of Dubai was a boyhood Red and that DIC would wipe our debts out and buy us with cash, throwing a bit more in for new players. People were criticising Hicks for his past as leader of an LBO outfit, but ignoring the fact DIC advertised themselves as such on their website.

    I doubt it was because of anything I wrote, but pretty soon DIC stopped being referred to as DIC. Hicks had been dealing with DIC earlier on (remember the memo that got printed in one of the nationals) but now all of a sudden it was just “Dubai” that were trying to buy LFC. I was fighting to make sure we didn’t welcome “DIC” with open arms only to find it was out of the frying pan into the fire.

    As far as sources are concerned – well I’ve never spoken to Tom Hicks but I did speak to various people at the time, inside and outside the club. I might update the article sometime and try to explain it better but my biggest issue at the start of those troubles was the treatment of Rafa. All my – and others’ – assumptions about the owners had that whole Klinsmann situation as their foundation. We assumed it was Hicks pushing to sack Rafa, that Gillett had saved him from the sack, that Hicks had found Klinsmann and offered him the job without really giving Gillett a say in the matter. Hicks the bully, Gillett the downtrodden victim!

    Hicks made peace with Rafa publicly (whether we believed it was genuine or not) but Gillett didn’t need to. He’d been quiet, he’d not fallen out with Rafa anyway had he? That’s what I’d thought, as had others – and that’s why I was so shocked when I found that Gillett had real anger and maybe even hatred for Rafa a few months later, hatred that went right back to the time of that trouble earlier in the season. All of a sudden the foundations weren’t as strong. Gillett wasn’t the innocent downtrodden out-of-his-depth victim I had assumed he was.

    None of that has anything to do with anything I was told by anyone even remotely sympathetic towards Hicks, let alone any of his own people. And you’ll no doubt have seen countless other references from Gillett since then where he makes it clear he’s not a fan of Rafa’s, for example his chat to Jay McKenna of SoS in the Crowne Plaza and also that chat he had with a fan just before he went on his well-publicised visit to the middle east. He didn’t seem to even try and hide his contempt of Rafa if he didn’t think anyone was recording it.

    You mentioned Don King and Max Clifford, perhaps the biggest mistake Hicks made during those dark months was not to employ a decent PR company with experience of the British press and people. DIC had David Bick, who is excellent at his job. George Gillett had clearly taken advice (although he claims he doesn’t use PR people) because he knew the right time to disappear and reappear. Even Rick Parry was said to have his own PR rep. Hicks had someone who did PR aimed at financial types communicating to other financial types, and it showed. Nowadays of course he employs Freud Communications, and they seem to have earned their fee by just telling him not to speak too often because he’s far less likely to pick up the phone and chat to Sky these days! Let’s not mention emails…

    Why would Rafa be under the impression that he had to sell three or four players in January because he had to lower the wage bill? That’s what he’d been told, I believe, but the owners were – I believe – unaware of this decision! An offer comes in to finance the stadium, and offer that in itself suggests possibilities of opening up avenues towards investment in the club in general – but it’s said to have been knocked back out of hand as soon as it reaches the temporary MD. The temp MD has his own contacts, he’ll sort out the investment himself. Surely if he’s acting in the best interests of Liverpool FC he’ll at least consider such offers, rather than dismiss them out of hand because he’s got his own contacts? If it wasn’t the right offer from LFC’s perspective then fair enough – but that doesn’t seem to be the reason for its rejection.

    As for “the damage done to efforts to get rid of these two clowns” do you not think that damage is being done in other ways? In fact Purslow told SOS that protests put investors off, more or less asking them to stop the protests by the sounds of it.

    I’m slightly inclined to agree with him on that front, although I think any protest that caught the eye of potential investors would only scare of potential investors that knew they’d be facing the same protests themselves further down the line. Any investor who was looking to mix their need for profit with the recognition of our needs as supporters wouldn’t be scared off.

    On the other hand when the complaints and protests are about something that was never true in the first place might that not frighten off a decent investor too? If a potential investor sent his lacky out to meet some of those complaining about Hicks and Gillett to ask why they were protesting what kind of answers would he get? I think it’s a long time since anyone actually thought properly about why they want Hicks and Gillett out, meaning any reasons given are pretty vague.

    We shout “Yanks out” but we don’t for one minute say how. Christian Purslow might be selling us to a hedge fund, but we don’t ask any questions because he seems a nice chap.

    We’re like a little old lady letting the nice man into her house to read her meter. He might be a nice man, he might be a meter reader, but the days of just trusting that’s the case by appearances alone are long gone. Yet we’ve let Hicks in, Gillett in, nearly let DIC in and now we’ve let Purslow in and not once did we ask for any credentials.

    And that’s all I’m really trying to do.

  12. If I understand the quest for new investment inLFC correctly, it is that the Americans will now accept 100 Mil for 50% of the share holding but that the new invester must also put up 300Mil to be build the new stadium. This seems to suggest that the Americans will get 50% ownership of the new stadium for nothing.
    Our American con men seem to know no bounds to the con tactics. If my assumptions are correct our illustrious con artists are asking 400 mil for 50% of the shares, not bad if they swing it but, surley there will not be some mug foolish enough to go for this.
    The only real resolution to the Americans disasterous management of the club is for them to go and go quickly.

  13. TBH would any sane person ‘get into bed’ with Laurel and Hardy? It seems like their trying to sell a slice of the cake but want to it themselves!!! Purslow has said today their are people interested. My sources tell me its Paul and Barry Chuckle!! To me-To You

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