A statement from Kenny Huang and QSL on last night announced that he had formally withdrawn from the process to sell Liverpool Football Club to new owners. Huang said: “I am now considering my future options and will be making no further comment at this time.”
No reason was given in the statement for the decision, but it is believed he had grown frustrated by the apparent slow pace of a process in which he firmly believed he was the only viable bidder.
Now there are doubts about how genuine Martin Broughton was when he said that the club would be sold to the best bidder. It suggested that, contrary to his claims, the current owners were not only able to block the sale of the club but were actively doing so.
It also suggested that Martin Broughton was not taking the bid seriously and in turn created doubts that he was even taking the sales process seriously.
Broughton once said: “I have always taken the view that if you’re not at the table you’re likely to be on the menu.” He now finds himself sitting alone at the table; there’s nothing palatable on the menu. And he has nobody else to blame.
Suggestions that Huang and QSL hadn’t provided proof of funding are wide of the mark. Sources at both British banks involved in the club’s current predicament have disputed those claims.
Anfield Road has learned that proof of funding for the bid was supplied by a merchant bank and was checked and approved by both RBS and Barclays. In the eyes of the banks the bid is viable.
Huang had good reason to believe that no other credible bids had been put in front of the board; he wasn’t basing that belief purely on guesswork. He knew there were no other credible bids.
Even so, the likelihood of there being any other viable bids on the table, let alone four, is extremely doubtful based purely on what is in the public domain.
One supposed bidder was last linked to the club in March, before Broughton’s arrival at the club. At that time Christian Purslow was tasked with finding in the region of £100m of new investment before Easter.
The only offer he could find would come from the Rhône Group. They offered £110m for a 40% share of the club, a figure that would value the club at £275m. The fact Hicks and Gillett are now resisting an offer of £400m speaks volumes not only about the inadequacy of that Rhône offer but also about why they aren’t at the table now the whole club is on the block.
Comments from Keith Harris were taken as meaning he was looking to bring somebody to the table – but a closer look suggested that maybe this wasn’t his intention at all. “All I am prepared to say is that we have looked at it very carefully on behalf of would-be buyers, who we know are very serious, we know are cash rich, we know have the right incentive and are prepared to take a long-term view. I can’t say any more at the minute. We have represented a buyer in the past and that is an ongoing situation.” In fact the buyer he represented in the past was the Al Kharafi family of Kuwait, a family he would later serve with a writ for failing to pay their bill for his work on that bid. That family are now believed to be too busy with other concerns to be able to get involved in a renewed bid for Liverpool FC.
Claims that Sharjah’s Al Qasemi royal family were another interested party have also been dismissed as highly unlikely.
One potential owner from India made it clear he would not be involved in a bid for the club despite having given the idea serious consideration in the past. A spokesman for Subrata Roy’s Sahara Group said earlier in the month: “The deal for the acquisition of Liverpool Football Club was in our consideration in the recent past. However, after considering all related factors, we have decided not to go ahead with it, at least for the time being.”
And that more or less rounds up all the possible candidates for ownership. The owners have spent the last two-and-a-half years and no doubt huge advisor fees looking for buyers or investors and have failed to find a single one. The idea that anyone could find four new potential buyers in the space of a few weeks is considered highly unlikely. About as unlikely as Yahya Kirdi opening his solarium at his new Anfield to provide solar power for the benefit of Liverpudlians.
Claims were also made during the week that Peter Kenyon was representing Huang and QSL in negotiations with the club and had been for some months.
However Kenyon was not representing QSL or Huang and was not negotiating on their behalf with Liverpool FC.
Kenyon, as part of his role with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), is understood to have been involved in a proposed bid from India for the Reds. The proposal got to an advanced stage before it collapsed. After officially leaving Chelsea earlier this month Kenyon is understood to have approached QSL with a view to offering CAA’s help in their bid.
CAA had got as far as setting up the legal entity (known as an SPV, or Special Purpose Vehicle) that would be used as part of their acquisition and were offering QSL the option of taking this over. CAA and Kenyon also made QSL aware of their close relationships with key contacts built up during their previous work on the bid for the club.
Had QSL taken up the offer of help from CAA they would have paid a fee to CAA for this work. Kenyon would not have been involved in any way with Liverpool Football Club after the deal for the club was complete.
Kenyon’s past as the head of both Manchester United and Chelsea makes him something of a hate figure amongst Liverpool supporters, at least when his name is mentioned. When the idea was floated that Kenyon had been a secret part of Huang’s bid for the past few months it raised concerns amongst many Liverpool supporters.
Whoever leaked the exaggerated and indeed false claims knew there would be a negative reaction. They probably hoped it would lead to an angry backlash against Huang. The story was reported in good faith, breaking as Liverpool were actually on the field in their Europa League tie. Very few individuals would have been aware of any involvement from Kenyon.
Anfield Road understands that other efforts to discredit the QSL bid or to stall the process as a whole have been made by George Gillett.
Gillett is understood to have informed the banks of an imminent and credible bid from the Syrian Yahya Kirdi as soon as Kenny Huang made his initial approach for the club. The suggestion was that he was trying to block any move by Kenny Huang by revealing he had received a credible offer of his own.
However all of Kirdi’s potential credibility disappeared as claims made by him or for him would be shown to be more than a little doubtful. He wasn’t a billionaire or part of a consortium of billionaires – he was a former pizza shop and off-licence owner. As soon as he admitted this he claimed to now be in the stadium construction business – a claim he is yet to back up with a single example of a stadium project he has been involved in.
His other claims have been discussed and dismissed previously on Anfield Road. Kirdi is now by and large a figure of fun and considered a fantasist.
Gillett’s attempts to stall the process don’t stop at trying to hoodwink the fans, the banks and board with comedians acting as investors. He is also said to be determined to discredit Huang’s bid.
Anfield Road learned that journalists in the US and Hong Kong had been approached and offered a reward to find out anything that could be used to smear Huang and his bid. That’s not to say that any negative stories relating to Huang were uncovered by journalists in Gillett’s employ, in fact the nearest any reports have been to revealing anything negative but remotely relevant about Huang didn’t come from US or Hong-Kong reporters. Not every reporter approached took the offer up.
Gillett will have been alarmed at to learn Huang was being taken seriously not only by BarCap and RBS but also by some senior officials at the club. When he realised that Huang had shown proof of funds his worst fears were starting to be realised.
Anfield Road understands that Gillett, discussing the takeover story off the record with some US-based financial reporters, claimed that certain members of the UK press were taking financial inducements to report Huang’s bid in a more favourable light than it deserved.
Gillett apparently even indicated which reporters he was referring to, perhaps not expecting those claims to make their way across the pond and back to the reporters he’d referred to.
The claims were laughed off extremely loudly and taken as a sign of the desperation that George Gillett had found himself in.
Everything about Gillett’s actions suggested he was on the ropes. Hicks wasn’t even in the ring any more having been left seeing stars when the sale of his Texas Rangers baseball franchise didn’t go his way. Finally there was a chance to deliver the knockout blow to these owners. They were all but beaten and outnumbered too.
Then Broughton bottled out. Instead of knocking them out and winning the battle for the club he let them get back up. He gave them a glimmer of hope, a chance to fight back.
He could have been a hero; he could have been the champ.
He ended up the chump.
And there’s no telling where Liverpool will end up.