Hicks and Gillett speak about their new purchase

Liverpool’s new owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett, had plenty to say on the day their takeover of the club was officially announced. They attended a long press conference and then held interviews with various media outlets.

Tom Hicks revealed how David Moores’ main concern was not a financial one when it came to deciding if the Gillett/Hicks partnership was the right one: “It was not a question of money, it was a question of, ‘Are we the proper custodians?’ and I believe we are.”

Hicks went on: “These opportunities happen just once every few generations. George called me about a month ago and explained what he thought was a vision and the opportunity at Liverpool. We sat around at the All Star game and we had enough chance to talk. It didn’t take me long.”

He continued: “I have followed the English Premier League from afar because some of my business friends are ardent fans of the game. When I looked into it I was awestruck with the history and true passion of the fans compared to other sports I am involved with. I had obviously heard of Liverpool, then I had the chance to read about 115 years of history on the internet, about the 18 championships and the success in Europe.”

One of the biggest reservations that Liverpool fans had about George
Gillett was that he was believed to favour the idea of a groundshare.
This was something he denied had ever been the case, and Hicks
confirmed this: “I can categorically say we have never been interested
in a groundshare situation with any other team. We are going to build
and fund the new stadium which will be the home of one team –

Hicks also hopes his and his partner’s expertise can be used to good
effect in the new stadium project: “We have both been involved in
building or modifying new stadia so we think we can bring a lot of good
work to the benefit of the fans and the club here at Liverpool.”

Journalists were keen to know if the manager was going to get a huge
amount of money to spend on players, but Hicks says that the amount the
manager gets will depend on who is available: “If you have a chance to
get a great player, you get a great player. We’re not going to put a
budget on what we’re going to do.”

Hicks says that winning is extremely important to him: “When any
businessman goes into any sport you have to have a passion for winning.
For me there was nothing more emotionally satisfying as when we won the
Stanley Cup in 1999 and having the captain of the side hand me the cup.”

George Gillett said his family had been looking at buying into the game
for some time: “We have been looking at European football for several
years. I don’t want to try to convince you we are a knowledgeable
football family, but we are a family who love sport.”

He was very clear on the idea of groundsharing with Liverpool’s small
neighbours Everton. For some time now the general consensus was that
his earlier bid was rejected mainly because of his wish to share a
ground with the smaller side, but he says this has never been the case:
“I have no idea where that story came from. It is certainly not true
and I can categorically deny it now. The first time I met Rick Parry he
looked me in the eye and said ‘If you ever bring the topic of ground
sharing up in a serious way you can have my resignation’. That was very
clear and the subject has never come up. We want to build a first class
facility for the fans and we certainly hope we can bring the title back
to Anfield.”

Gillett has been dumbstruck by just how passionate the game of football
is when compared to the sports he’s more familiar with across the
Atlantic: “When you sit in our little country you get an unusual
perspective and an incorrect one thinking our sports are really pretty
popular. Then you come over here and see the tribal aspects of the fans
and their affection and support for the team and realise it’s a game
that is watched by billions of supporters watching the game worldwide.
It’s then you realise that this is truly the most important sport in
the world and Liverpool is one of the most popular clubs in the world.
To have the opportunity to get involved in this is a rare privilege.”

They aren’t looking to make any changes in the management side of
things – not yet anyway: “It’s well managed and we are not looking to
change things.” That said, Liverpool do need to make improvements in
their marketing, and perhaps the new owners can help in that respect:
“It seem that everything written has been about money but we really do
hope we have some ideas for Liverpool as well.”

Gillett was clearly impressed on meeting with captain and vice-captain,
Gerrard and Carragher, on Monday night at their hotel with the England
national side: “They delivered us a clear message. They are all about
winning, and the fans. The number one question they asked was that they
wanted continuity with David and Rick. They have enormous regard for
them and they spoke extremely warmly about Rafa and made us aware they
feel this man is truly one of the great geniuses in the recent history
of the sport. Secondly, they wanted to talk about players and to
encourage us to support Rick and Rafa’s efforts in building the team.
They also had clear views about the stadium. The home advantage of
Anfield and the fans on the Kop needs to be incorporated into the new
ground. They hope the new stadium can retain all the atmosphere of

A lot of emphasis was made of the new owners being “right” for the
club, and Gillett made sure that he explained how he felt that they
were the best choice: “I don’t know how I can convey to Liverpool fans
the care that David Moores has put into this decision. There was
aggressive questioning of us trying to understand our passion and our
commitment. It was all about our passion and commitment, and if there
is anything we can do to convey that to people we will do so. I don’t
think David Moores would have selected us to be the new custodians of
this great football club unless he had become convinced that we shared
that sense of responsibility that he has. We are both huge sports fans
first and foremost.”

And Gillett wants to win the league: “Rick has told me of a Shankly
saying that ‘first is first and second is nowhere’ and that sounds good
to me.”

In a later interview, to US media, Gillett explained that he felt they
could increase Liverpool support worldwide: “We’ve got a Spanish coach
and a number of Spanish players, and I think we can grow our fan base
in Central and South America and Mexico,”

Liverpool’s purchase has been compared, inevitably, with Chelsea’s
purchase by Roman Abramovich. Gillett doesn’t feel that throwing money
at a team for the sake of it is going to necessarily bring long-term
success. He pointed to the example of the US baseball side The Yankees
as an example: “In the history of sports, it’s been proven time and
again that teams that are bought and built with money aren’t
sustainable – the last time the Yankees won was in 2000.” The Yankees
are often accused of paying top prices for players and pricing other
teams out of the market.

For Gillett, the philosophy of Rafael Benítez is important: “It’s not
just about spending money. We believe in the Rafa concept. That doesn’t
mean going out and being crazy with expenditures. It’s finding the
right people with the right mix and the right skill sets and different

Another worry for fans amongst the many items of uncertainty is whether
the new owners will increase ticket prices so that Reds fans are paying
the same extortionate prices fans of many other clubs – particularly in
the capital – are forced to pay. Gillett says that this isn’t something
they’ve made their minds up on yet: “We know the facts; I don’t think
we’ve come to a conclusion on that, though.”

Gillet says that the addition of the Hicks family to the bid made the
Liverpool board think again: “When we added the Hicks family to our
bid, we overcame apprehensions they may have had about a single family,
no matter how wealthy, competing in the new Premiership.”

Gillett seemed worried that he had used the word “franchise” to
describe the Reds at the press conference: “I understand it’s a club. I
used franchise incorrectly at the news conference, but in later
interviews corrected myself.”