Why was Hicks Jnr in town and in the pub?

Once again the media have found an off-field story related to Liverpool FC with which to fill some column inches and airtime. Thomas O Hicks Jnr, son of Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks, went to a local pub after the game on Saturday and had to leave sooner than he’d have liked. The details of what happened in the pub vary from one so-called “eye-witness” to another, but without some exaggeration it would never make such an interesting story.

The fact that Tommy was there at all should be the focus of the interest, not what may or may not have happened. Why would the co-owners’ son be at the game and then mixing with supporters afterwards if the family really were about to sell up?

The pub he went to was The Sandon; recently home to the first meeting of the Liverpool Supporters’ Union, provisionally called “Sons of Shankly” but likely to become “Spirit of Shankly”. The pub itself has played a key role in Liverpool’s history, indeed in its foundation, as you’ll find if you read any decent history book about the club. It was once owned by John Houlding, the founder of Liverpool FC, was used as dressing rooms for a time and even team photos were often taken there.

Trying to cut through the nonsense surrounding Tommy’s visit, it seems that there were no physical attacks on the owner’s son – despite claims that punches had been thrown in his direction. Tommy was reportedly advised against going into the pub so close to the ground so soon after the game, but with club security staff alongside him felt it was worth the risk.

We know that Gillett wants out. We know that Hicks has first shout in his shares – if he can meet Gillett’s asking price then he can buy them, regardless of who else is in for them. We also know that DIC are looking to buy into the club. By the middle, maybe the end of next month it’s certain that Gillett will no longer be a co-owner of Liverpool FC. What remains in doubt is just how big Tom Hicks’ share will be, and who – if anyone – he then co-owns it with. Hicks isn’t likely to be bought out in full because he sees potential in the club in the long term that means he’s not looking for a quick sale and a smaller but easier profit like Gillett is. It’s in Hicks interest to buy at least part of Gillett’s share, to make him the majority shareholder. But whether DIC are prepared to be a minority shareholder remains to be seen, and of course there remains the possibility that Hicks would sell part of his own shareholding so that he could reduce the personal liabilities he currently has in the club after the refinancing problems of earlier in the year.

Nobody will know the outcome until the paperwork has been signed and the cheques have been swapped. That’s why we keep hearing different stories. There are the versions that each party want us to hear, and also the versions that each party would like to be true. Hicks was in Dubai last week, as confirmed by numerous sources, and the word that seems to be coming out consistently is that there will be a deal in place by the middle of next month – it could even coincide with the 15th March anniversary of the club’s formation 116 years ago.

And all of the options currently point to the Hicks family remaining a part of the club’s hierarchy for the foreseeable future.

And that is why, almost certainly, Tommy was at the game and then went onto the pub. He knows that the supporters aren’t happy with his father. He also knows a lot more about what Gillett’s role in the events of the last year actually was. Gillett was painted as the good guy through the troubles of the last six months in particular – but was he? It was Gillett that already had business dealings with Jurgen Klinsmann, and although the meeting between both owners and the former Tottenham and Germany player took place at a Hicks holiday residence, Gillett was there. Gillett promised us “Snoogy Doogy”, watched by a stern-faced Tom Hicks just before Athens. Gillett was the man who wanted to be loved, claiming he’d be going into the Kop at some stage to meet the fans, clearly wanting to be a hero, perhaps needing that polish to his ego. Yet he is well-known to be the least wealthy of the pair and was given short shrift by former Aston Villa owner Doug Ellis when showing interest in buying the Birmingham side. Gillett clearly knew that they had not borrowed enough money to increase the manager’s transfer budget, and he also knew that he didn’t have a great deal of cash himself – so why make promises that he can’t keep? Was it Gillett who wanted to see Rafa out last summer, after Rafa’s public hints at a lack of transfer investment had started to change fan perception of the owners? Strong hints have been being made for some time now that Gillett was the one trying to oust Rafa, not Hicks.

The reasons Liverpool fans turned on the owners are more than anything down to lies, or what are perceived as lies, over the last year. Technically speaking, many of the statements made were worded in such a way that there weren’t actually any promises made. But fans are angry because fans listened to the spirit of what was being said, not the actual wording. “Rafa will be supported in the transfer market” means nothing in reality. But to supporters giving their trust to the new owners it meant Rafa would be given at least some extra funds that wouldn’t have been available under the previous owner David Moores. The owners said that they hadn’t put any debt onto the club, and in saying they weren’t like the Glazers they implied that they wouldn’t be doing so at a later date either. They never said there’d be no debt put onto the club, but by saying what they did they left fans believing that this would always be the case.

Added to the many broken promises, or implied promises, were the decisions that upset fans for the way they were done. Rafa’s job was offered to a coach who’d never managed a club, and had actually only ever managed six competitive games. Not only was it a bad choice of replacement, but one who’d been approached for the wrong reasons. The approach was made when Liverpool were unbeaten in the league and as it turned were turning around their bad start in the Champions League. The manager has been ridiculed in public, accused of “pouting” about being told he couldn’t negotiate transfers that would overall cost the club nothing anyway. After recognising the struggles he’d had since losing his assistant Paco Ayesteran, Rafa reportedly asked for a replacement in Sammy Lee. The money saved on Paco’s wages would pay for Lee, but again the story goes that he was blocked.

It wasn’t just decisions undermining the manager that upset the fans. Why unveil a stadium in July to much fanfare, no doubt going to great expense to get planning permission for it, only to neglect to cost it up properly first. Now more money had to be spent on getting revised plans drawn up at the price that should have been in place initially. It was embarrassing, it was worrying, it was easily avoided.

It was one of many mistakes, one of many errors of judgement.

And no doubt the reason Tommy was in the pub was because he and his father intend to stick around, and instead of sitting back in the US and letting the club tick over, it seems maybe they want to learn from those mistakes. There’s even a strong feeling that this could become Tommy’s major personal project. He’s quoted as saying on Saturday, “We realise communication is important but it’s a lot better now. I’d like to live here because Liverpool is a great place.”

Is it possible that he wants to know from the supporters just what it is that his family will need to do to get the fans back onside again? Are they willing to investigate possible ways of doing that?

Nicky Allt, the chairman of the Liverpool Supporters’ Union spoke about the incident in the Sandon. He’d not been there himself but was told later that Tommy had been drinking with just his minders, before a member of the Supporters’ Union asked him some questions, in an amicable manner. “I was quite surprised he went in there,” Nicky told the Post, “He stood at the bar with his two minders and was left alone to begin with, but then he was approached by a member of the Liverpool supporters’ union. He was being asked questions like ‘What’s going on?’, ‘How come the club’s loaded with debt?’, ‘Do Hicks and Gillett speak to each other?’, ‘How can the club be run from Texas?’ Then more people started butting in.”

Reports that seem consistent are that chants of “Get out of our pub” to the tune usually reserved for “We won it five times” were sung and Tommy made an exit before it turned nasty.

Tommy took a chance by going in there, because a lot of people have been upset. By most reliable accounts he wasn’t actually hurt. A small minority of Liverpool supporters have said it would have been fine if he was hurt. It wouldn’t though, what good would that actually do for the club? Tommy wasn’t at Anfield to pick up his dad’s cowboy boots and a few other personal belongings, they have people to do that kind of thing for them, not to mention quieter days at Anfield than match days. There’s a strong possibility that the Hicks family will remain involved at Anfield – as Hicks Snr himself had said recently, claiming they’d have a more active role in the future. So Tommy was here, perhaps, to test the water and check out just how hostile the natives have become.

Big decisions lie ahead for the people with money, after which Liverpool will have a new ownership structure in place, with or without DIC, with or without Hicks. And then big decisions will lie ahead for Liverpool supporters. We can’t have everything. Whoever owns us will want to make money out of us, and they can do that with a top four finish and even just a run in the group stages of the Champions League. The owners have still done nothing to change things for the better, so there’s still no reason for protests to be stopped or toned down. But if they come to the table, effectively, looking for ways to win back some support, is it right to turn them down flat? If we do that, they’ll retreat to the US and run us from a distance, taking what they can from us with no interest in silverware or honours. The top four and the Champions League run will do. Likewise we can never again open ourselves up to accepting them at their word. This applies to Hicks, DIC, a combination of the two or a combination of one or both and others. Bridges will need to be built.

Honesty and actions are what we need from the new ownership structure. No more broken promises, just honesty. Honesty about what will be done. And the actions to prove it.

UPDATE: Some more accurate reports of what happened than you’ll get in any other paper, from the Echo’s Tony Barrett who was actually there…
Liverpool Echo – I wanted to talk to fans, says Tom Hicks Jnr and Liverpool Echo – Tom Hicks Jnr: How it turned nasty in the Sandon

13 thoughts on “Why was Hicks Jnr in town and in the pub?”

  1. The Hicks family must be having a chuckle to themselves and feeling very smug. One visit to a pub and suddenly peoples opposition to them begins to dilute. Maybe Hick’s son did have to beat a hasty retreat but already the charm offensive is working an perhaps most surprisingly on this very site.

  2. Now its Gillette who is the bad guy. No one said he is whiter than white but all the press conferences showing disrespect for Rafa came from Hicks. He is the one who claimed that alot of money was spent on players over the summer, therefore making excuses not to spend anymore. This could be a good PR article for Hicks or its very naive to say the least. You say if LFC make it to the CL then the owners will be happy. Well look how hard it is to guarantee 4th place. Imagine how hard it would be with fans still upset with the owners. The fans were rightly credited for their part in winning the CL final in 2005. A disollusioned fanbase will only make it harder to concentrate in making it to the CL year in year out. By the way how are we to get there in the first place when everyone else from Villa to Man City are spending and we have to do with what we have?

  3. Both comments from frdthered and jack have good points stateing that there is certainly no reason to suddenly start backing Hicks or Gillette. However the artical makes a good point. If any of the owners plan to stay in place, and from recent events Hicks will, then dialogue needs to be held. We as fans have a responsibility to hear what they have to say and more importantly see what they do. What we must not do is push them back to the USA and decide to start making money by stripping the clubs assets. A £50m offer for Gerrard, as mooted in the press recently, would be very hard to resist for anyone who wants to make money before they sell the club. Whilst I don’t want them in place I can not stop Gillette and Hicks from owning the club. What I don’t want to do is encourage them to make their money quickly out of the club!!!!

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    First of all, I’m not suggesting for one moment that we suddenly hold our arms open and forgive the Hicks family. We’ve a long way to go before we can do that – and that’s if we ever can.

    There’s been a growing feeling for some time now that Gillett was as much the bad guy as Hicks was, if not worse. Hicks has said a lot of things that were later contradicted. Maybe Gillett was being clever by being quiet. In no way am I saying that Hicks was a good guy, no way at all. What’s changed is that any lingering feelings I had that maybe Gillett was the good guy all along are slowly dying out.

    Hicks has now started to support Rafa publicly with various statements claiming he’s going to keep his job until his contract runs out. Can we take him at his word? Of course not, he’s not earned the right to be taken at his word. But at least he’s speaking. Gillett has disappeared, and perhaps it’s because the fans have now finally seen him for what he is, and for what Doug Ellis spotted all that time ago.

    But what we mustn’t lose sight of is that by alienating the new ownership structure too much we may find ourselves sitting there as a franchise that ticks over and does little else. This season’s league position is in doubt, and at worst we may have to sell players to get through, which in turn could leave us struggling again next year.

    Anyone who assumes a 100% takeover by DIC would fix things is being a little too expectant really. They’ll probably invest in the squad, taking a long-term view on the situation, but there’s no guarantees. And they’ll not be asked to provide any guarantees.

    We’ve got to be careful what we fall for, but at the same time we’ve got to consider that there may come a time when we need to offer a very, very slight amount of trust to the Hicks family if they continue to own the club. If they are willing to talk at grass roots level with supporters, without turning it into a major publicity exercise, it shows some promising signs. But that’s all. It proves nothing. Actions will be the proof. But I’m sure most people reading this would love the chance to let the Hicks family, or the DIC board if it’s them, know where the owners for the last 12 months went wrong.

    We’ve got to know when it’s time to protest and when it’s time to talk. If Hicks wants to stay Hicks will stay. We can maybe force him out, with enough boycotts and protests, and we can make his life hard. But we’ve got to be prepared to talk, to see if the owners are willing to try and put things right.

    We won’t fall for carefully worded PR-agency-drafted statements again. We won’t fall for the charm offensives. But unless we’re protesting for the sake of it, we’ve got to listen to any offers that come our way.

  5. Hicks presence at Anfield on Saturday along with his naive PR stunt at The Sandon confirms one thing to me – The Hicks family have no intention of selling to DIC.

    We hear that “Gilette is desperate to sell his stake” – Who says? Aside from a few insightful articles written by Chris Bascombe I have found very little in the way of articles containing credible sources to back up such claims.

    I am just tired of hearing about “potential takeover developments within days” only for a week later to be disappointed by another declaration by Hicks that he and his family have no intention of selling up.

    Its blatantly obvious that there has been a communication breakdown between Messrs Hicks and Gilette but I have yet to see one worthy source other than those made by Bascombe that indicates either one is ready to offload their share.

    Furthermore I cannot conceive how some fans can all of a sudden go along with the notion that the current fall out between the fans and Americans was actually the result of Gilettes actions all along and I dont see any new evidence why Hicks should now be held any less accountable.

    The whole situation stinks. This latest stunt by the Hicks family at The Sandon on Saturday has done nothing other than give the national and international press good fodder to further more drag the reputation and image of the fans and the club through the mud.

    Tom Hicks Jnrs arrogant and irrational actions without consideration of furthermore bringing the clubs name into disrepute should only act to intensify any of the on going protests And until Hicks and Gilette finally realise that there is only one way they could possibly start to redeem themselves in the eyes of any true Liverpool fan and that day will only come when they no longer play any part in the future of LFC.

  6. Thanks for taking the time to reply Jim and I take back what I said about this site diluting its oppostition to Hicks and Co. Bit of a knee jerk reaction on my part. I admire the clarity in your articles, they are without doubt the most informative articles written.

  7. Jim. The way I read it Doug Ellis was not against Gillett the person, but against the ownership model with the cost of acquiring the shareholding transferred to the club. We’ve got that with Hicks. Why is it inevitable that any owners would want to profit personally from the club. If David Moores could have seen beyond his vanity he would have let go his majority stake and a consortium of investors, Gibson, Miskelly, fans could have been formed in which the well being of the club was paramount not their personal prospects for profit. There are other ways.
    To get me on board, as if the individual fan matters in all of this, I would want Hicks et al to take the opportunity in 18 months time when the existing financing arrangement is up, to structure the ownership so that the club has a normal paid up capital from the shareholders (I am not bothered where they get the money for there shares as long as they are liable for it not the club). The club will the borrow and structure its borrowing to the norms of gearing.

  8. I agree with your comments as stated previous we need to talk to them and give clear objectives as to what the fans expect. However I would prefer to see this happen once the season is over. Now matter how much we dislike it, anything that can be spun as positive by the USA will be.

    What we have to be sure of is that it is resolved so as next season is not spoiled like this one. The fact that we have drawn so many games shows the mind has not been fully on the job. Imagine what we can do with a full season of concentrating on football, thats why this must be sorted.

  9. I dont buy into any notion that Hicks has even an inch with which to work regarding regaining our trust or support. Honesty is all well and good, lord knows we’d have loved to know what they had planned at the beginning, but the cold hard facts remain. Debt – 55 million give or take in interest payments per year – we cant compete, literally, with that, for obvious reasons outlined many times. Even if the Hicks’ launch a charm offensive, say sorry we have been fools, please, please, give us a chance, and never lie again – the aforementioned fact will remain and render us useless for the years preceeding the stadium being built. Then theres the extent to which this could harm us – at best we keep our heads above water and stay in europe, do okay, nothing special with no decent signings coming in, at worst, we drop out of europe and the lack of money this causes creates a spiral of decline and subsequent implosion of the club. I am not willing to take this risk. DIC may not be the knights in shining armour we imagine them to be, but if they buy the club outright, with their own cash, we will be able to buy players like we did under moores until the stadium arrives.

    Gillett versus Hicks: Gillett is not much better than Hicks without doubt, but i’m surprised Jim that you chose to intimate that it may have been Gillett who wanted Rafa out not Hicks. Although I know you are not supporting Hicks, statements like that initiate new paradigms especially when they come from such a credible source as yourself. I’m not having a go – you have written some of the best articles on this debacle i have read and without doubt you are eminently more qualified to report on issues pertaining to Liverpool football club than i will ever be, but we must be very, very careful not to accept what is and has been going on, for this is exactly what Mr Hicks is expecting and perhaps trying to achieve. – Take the so called match day support emails to Rafa – How naive do you have to be to even start to believe that they have any integrity? Hicks is a clearly intelligent man – it is an avenue for him to gain back support by supposedly now backing Rafa. If he doesnt care about the club in terms of results and just wants to make money – why would he care if Rafa is at the helm, now that he knows Rafa wont be publicly challenging him on the issue of transfer funds?? I certianinly wont be duped.

    There is the danger of us eventually accepting a Hicks – Liverpool existence of course and maybe, ultimately, there will be nothing we can do to get him out, but as long as that imposter is in charge i will be joining in with the protests at Anfield and treating Hicks with the contempt he deserves.

  10. The bottom line is do G&H have the finances to carry us forward, what with the new stadium build and fans expectations of challenging for the epl year in year out (this expectation arising from living off our successful past and recent drought in titles).?

  11. So much that needs to be said. But articulating sound arguments isn’t one of my strong points, so I’ll just stick to this: Its irrelevant whether we think Hicks is being honest or not. The only thing that matters is his actions. If he is now supporting Rafa that is good, and infinitely better than where we were before, even if we don’t think he really means it.

    I am not a fan of either Hicks or Gillett by any stretch. But we have to take them at face value. If we don’t, in the end our ‘fan power’ will achieve nothing other than the very thing we’re trying to avoid. If fans are always belligerent towards the owners, who else is going to show interest in investing in the club? Same with sponsors, etc, etc. While we feel strongly, we have to see past our emotions and always behave constructively, with an eye on the bigger picture.

    Surely people recognise that the media – and many others – generally take absolute delight in putting Liverpudlians in the worst light possible. Let’s not give them that opportunity.

  12. Thanks John for the heads-up on the Oliver Kay article, they don’t normally go online quite so early. And thanks to all for your comments.

    Hicks has a lot to do if he wants to win fans over, and he may not actually be able to do so anyway. Honesty is the first demand, and if he manages that then admits we’ve no spare cash for transfers, even less than in past years, he’s going to win nobody over. So unless he can honestly promise us decent money transfer-fund wise – and prove it by actually handing it over – then I still struggle to see him being accepted again.

    But there’s no harm in hearing him out, when he does go public with his plans, and then pressing him for answers to various questions we’ve all got. Then we need to set him deadlines for the actions he promises to take, and of course make sure he takes them.

    DIC could still buy both owners out 100%, but it still seems most likely that Hicks will remain a part owner. We just don’t know how much of a part owner yet.

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