After the statement from Tom Hicks yesterday evening that he had terminated talks with Dubai International Capital over their potential purchase of 49% of the club, the press was surprisingly quiet.
Most of the journalists who normally cover the Reds were in Milan, flight problems permitting, and so in many cases may not have been in a position to give the news their full focus or to get the full run-down on what DIC’s latest stance was.
Over the past number of weeks we’ve seen story after story claiming another development had taken place in talks between the current co-owners – Tom Hicks and George Gillett – and DIC. For a long time there were no official comments from DIC, but no end of unofficial ones. Last week saw DIC CEO Sameer el-Ansari finally admit talks were in progress, a working week that ended with DIC negotiator Amanda Staveley announcing DIC would accept 49% but were hopeful of eventually getting 100%. A leaked letter made sure everybody now knew that Hicks representatives would be at the offices of Dubai by Monday, and its leaking enraged Tom Hicks.
The only real response coming from the DIC camp was a repeat of rumours a week ago that the shareholder agreement Tom Hicks is using to veto any sale by Gillett may not stand up to legal scrutiny. Clearly that possible legal way around the block by Hicks is a matter of contention, because if it was a matter of fact it would already be in use. Why announce an acceptance of 49% if there’s a sure-fire way of getting 50%? That fact it isn’t cut and dried means we may find our club dragged through the courts before any legal challenge is successful.
It’s not going to be confirmed if it was a coincidence or a consequence, but in the aftermath of those talks breaking down came an announcement that another Liverpool supporter amongst the chiefs at DIC had stepped down. The chief executive of DIC’s emerging markets division left “by mutual consent”, supposedly to pursue other interests. Khoury was one of those DIC representatives photographed at Anfield in the lead-up to their first aborted bid to buy into the club.
Maybe the departure of Khoury means nothing, but Reuters now claim that talks are back on. Or in their words “continuing”. Elena Moya reports: “Talks between Dubai International Capital (DIC) and Liverpool co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks are set to continue on Tuesday and over the next few days, despite Hicks’ announcement on Monday that talks had broken down, a source familiar with the situation said on Tuesday. Negotiations over the future of the football club will carry on in Dubai.” There’s another one of those unnamed sources again. If talks are back on, and let’s face it nobody has officially said they are, perhaps Khoury’s departure is linked in some way.
Hicks ended the talks, according to the official statement, because of what he said was an intention by DIC to run the club as a “committee”, or to be more precise their intentions that Hicks would not have the overall final decision on future activities at the club. DIC were not keen on the idea of Hicks having a majority of members on the board, Hicks was unwilling to consider the idea of a 50-50 split on voting rights on the board.
As for the board, there has been more spin from the DIC camp in today’s Echo. Tony Barrett is out with the squad in Milan, ready to cover tonight’s match against Inter. In his place in Liverpool sits Dave Prentice, who with all due respect is a blue and hardly likely to grill anyone giving him information with the same intensity a Liverpool fan might. His article is headlined “Tom Hicks rejects idea of Liverpool FC fans on board” suggesting perhaps much more than it really means. He goes on to claim that the sticking point that led to the collapse of the talks was when DIC “proposed putting a fans representative on the Anfield board. It is understood that DIC wanted a supporter representative in the boardroom, with full voting rights.”
Perhaps it’s too easy to be cynical, but how likely would it be that an organisation like DIC would allow a casting vote – presumably – to be held by any old supporter? Obviously they’d like Sameer al-Ansari on the board, a Liverpool fan, and perhaps that’s what they meant, but it’s unlikely any responsible position in a billion-pound company would be held by a supporter with no relevant experience other than being a supporter. By all means, give Kenny Dalglish a job on the board, he has enough experience of the game and has no doubt spent enough time mixing with board members to understand enough to actually be in a position to contribute to the running of the club. Likewise by all means appoint a Liverpool supporter who has expertise in other areas important to the running of a club, perhaps a finance expert. But to recruit someone from out of The Kop, or even to allow Spirit of Shankly to have a voting presence on the board is way too far-fetched to take seriously.
The kinds of decisions this person could make could be extremely significant. DIC are not so naive as to assume that the supporter would always be on their side. The attention that currently has most fans completely against Hicks may never fade, but if it did could DIC rely on this casting vote suiting their aims? Would they risk their investment in this way? It doesn’t make sense that they would. Yes, by all means, allow fans to be a part of the larger decisions, consulted on overall policies on various matters, but the DIC honeymoon period will be over one day and the truth might not quite sit easily with fans.
Nothing has been said officially by DIC on this matter, yet it grows legs and becomes fact before we know it. When push comes to shove, if DIC get part of the club, they can deny having ever promised such a move and we have to admit to ourselves that we assumed something we shouldn’t have. Isn’t that what we did 13 months ago?
Meanwhile Share Liverpool FC have pointed out that they are still serious in their intentions of taking a part of the club. In a statement they said: “According to press reports yesterday, Tom Hicks has terminated talks with DIC over the ownership of the club. ShareLiverpoolFC believes the long-term future of Liverpool Football Club lies with ownership in the hands of the club’s loyal and passionate supporters. A constitution for a supporter-owned club has been drawn up which guarantees a one member one vote democratic model which will allow proper professional management of the Club.
“We believe the current owners should now be exploring how those loyal and passionate supporters can be given a genuine voice in the direction of the club, and how a mutually satisfactory arrangement can be made that will allow the current owners as well as the fans to realise their respective ambitions.
“In light of the supporter response to date, ShareLiverpoolFC is confident that it can raise the sums needed to support a buyout very quickly, and that it now represents a serious alternative.
“We believe the time for a new model of football club ownership has arrived. ShareLiverpoolFC can make this a reality for Liverpool Football Club.”
For now it’s best to put it to the back of our minds and try to enjoy tonight’s match against Inter Milan. A single goal from Liverpool would leave Inter needing four to go through, but one goal from Inter would open the tie up again.