It was reported earlier today that Liverpool co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett had until midnight tonight to accept an offer from Dubai International Capital for their shares in the club, after which the offer would be withdrawn, but it now seems the deadline related to a response as opposed to an acceptance. One report says talks are going on into the evening.
Reports overnight said a formal offer was made by DIC last Wednesday, but no response had been received from the US duo. This morning came confirmation of talks by DIC’s chairman Sameer al-Ansari, the first acknowledgement in public from DIC. After that it was reported by the Echo that DIC had given Hicks and Gillett until midnight to accept the offer, or they would end negotiations.
Later in the day the Associated Press claimed they’d been told Tom Hicks had rejected the offer. Which would suggest DIC would then be walking away. However DIC had already said, via a spokesperson, that no timescale applied to the talks.
Now we get some clarification and it seems wires had been slightly crossed. The owners had been sitting on the offer for almost a week and DIC wanted an answer, one way or the other, before midnight. Without that the deal would be off.
Tony Barrett reports now on the Echo website: “LIVERPOOL co-owner Tom Hicks has rejected a £400m bid from Dubai International Capital to buy the club. The Dallas-based businessman turned down the offer on Tuesday afternoon, ahead of the midnight deadline which had been imposed today by DIC following weeks of talks.
“Despite denials suggesting otherwise, the ECHO understands there was a deadline which demanded a response to the offer before midnight and Hicks has now met that with a flat refusal, putting the ball firmly back in DIC’s court.”
Hicks has maintained all along that he has no intention of selling his stake, although he’s yet to explain why he still spent time in Dubai and London speaking to DIC if he wasn’t planning to sell.
It is now being reported in the Telegraph that Hicks and Gillett have representatives in London continuing attempts at a deal. Talks, it says, will go on into the evening. The report, by David Bond says that despite the denials of a midnight deadline to accept an offer, DIC are not likely to wait much longer for their offers to be accepted.
Whether those talks are going on or not, DIC have to ponder whether they’ve reached the end of the road in their bid or if they have more bargaining power up their sleeves. DIC may offer to invest in another of Hicks’ projects, could offer him an important role in the club even if he’s sold much of his share, or perhaps raise their bid by a slight amount – which is quite unlikely. New classes of share could be set up that see Hicks retain a small minority interest in the club, and that class of share could be set up to pay Hicks a return based on the success of the club after the new stadium has been built.
But Hicks won’t be easily persuaded. He’s doing a good job of convincing anyone who’ll listen that he believes he can get Liverpool through the turbulence of at least three-and-a-half seasons until the new stadium opens, after which he sees there being a lot more profit than the £25m on offer from DIC to sell now.
Liverpool fans are concerned that the stadium may not be built, if Hicks can’t raise the finance at an economical rate. Add to that are the concerns that squad investment hasn’t been enough to close the gap on the teams above Liverpool like Manchester United, and has also been low enough to allow teams previously outside the top four to close the gap. A turbulent season sees Liverpool only able to go fourth on goal difference if they win their game in hand against West Ham tomorrow, confidence being shot for most of the season amidst rumours of rifts throughout the whole club.
If Liverpool fail to finish fourth or higher they will miss out on a potential £25m+ in the Champions League, which is a pretty similar figure to what they will have to find in interest payments from now on thanks to the owners’ £350m debt. From expecting investment to bring cash to improve the squad fans now fear not only will that be lacking, but a finish outside the top four might force the club to sell players just to pay the interest on debts.
The £350m debt is not for building the stadium, and raising the finance to build something that is estimated to cost at least £300m is not going to be easy.
For Hicks to buy Gillett out on his own and become sole owner he needs to find double the amount of guarantees he has in place now for his share of the debt. Then he can take over full responsibility for the loans, freeing Gillett. This is no easy task, his assets have dropped in value over the last year and he’s got to convince the banks all over again that the club can still meet the interest payments.
On top of this he also needs to find £25m to pay Gillett the profit he’s desperate to make from his year of fake “Snoogy Doogy” promises and dollar-bill-waving stunts.
Of course even if Hicks can raise what he needs to take Gillett’s share, Gillett is of course under no obligation to sell. It’s unlikely to happen, but if he plays hardball he can stick around and make life difficult for his partner. He could even come out of hiding and start turning up for games, raising his public profile again, and blocking any Hicks ideas he’s not keen on. If his feud with Hicks is strong enough, there’s no telling what could happen but it’s unlikely there’d be any progress on the new stadium.
In all honesty, if Hicks does care about the club, as he often professes to do, he needs to “fix” whatever was up his sleeve in his interview in the Star-Telegram last week and to “fix” it quickly.
A 100% stake in Hicks’ name is not what too many supporters want, but the continuance of 50-50 Hicks-Gillett, with the two at loggerheads, is likely to lead Liverpool into deep trouble. We’re already in March and nobody can make a decision on new contracts or new signings and work on getting fresh consent for the new stadium can’t be moved forward
If Hicks can’t “fix” it quickly, he needs to step aside and allow DIC a place in the club.