At last Gillett speaks, but tries to shift blame

Liverpool co-owner George Gillett has spoken about Liverpool FC for the first time this year, and talks almost as if nothing has happened. Gillett has effectively been in hiding the last two months following Tom Hicks’ decision in January to publicly admit November talks with Jurgen Klinsmann resulting in him being offered the manager’s job. Their relationship was already suffering, but that was pretty much the last straw for Gillett. The admission confirmed rumours that had already been spreading, and contradicted earlier denials, but also ended any idea Gillett was as nice a guy as many had thought when he first arrived.

Gillett hated the idea of word spreading that he was nothing like the loveable little rich guy and wannabe-Kopite that he tried to have us believe. He recalled son Foster from his Anfield duties, much to the delight of Foster whose wife was rumoured to hate England and Liverpool in particular. At around the same time the refinancing of loans used to purchase the club was being negotiated.

Gillett wasn’t keen on Liverpool supporters realising how the reality of January 2008 was unlike the promises of February 2007.  They’d borrowed just under £300m initially to cover a purchase cost of around £220m including debt. Now they needed £350m, and after being unable to put that full amount onto the club had to settle for £105m on the club’s books, the rest on Kop Football’s books and guaranteed by non-LFC assets and cash.  They had no choice, there were no other options open to them, especially given Gillett’s financial position by then, but Gillett didn’t want it to come out officially that they’d now massively increased the club’s debt. His name didn’t appear on the official statement from Hicks that refinancing had been done.

The next two months were filled with claim after claim that Hicks, Gillett, or both were selling to DIC. It’s been “imminent” pretty much all that time, but there has still been no sale. Gillett had reportedly resisted all DIC’s offers until a package worth £80m in profit was put in front of him, but Hicks was unwilling to allow DIC any control in the club. Face-to-face talks on Monday between DIC and Hicks’ representatives were terminated when the Dubai group insisted that if they bought 49% of the club they would still expect 50% control. Gillett’s hopes of a massive profit were dashed for time being, as Hicks insisted there were other investors waiting in the wings.

After that came claims in the papers that talks had broken down when DIC said they wanted a representative of the fans with a voting board position. Tom Hicks strenuously denied the claims and despite calls to DIC to put an official statement out confirming this sweetener was a real intention and not just some phoney PR exercise the Hicks denial is the only official word on it. If it was true then DIC would have no reason not to issue a statement, after all if that really was the reason talks broke down it would put massive pressure on Hicks. Instead we hear Gillett-like silence on the matter, and that silence speaks volumes.

Throughout this period of uncertainty very little has actually been said openly by either co-owner about their relationship with each other. The opportunity to blame each other for all the ills of recent months has been resisted but alleged emails to fans from Hicks have finally shown some public ‘evidence’ of how the Texan saw his relationship with Gillett.

The emails first appeared on internet forums and how deeply the journalist checked their validity (it’s very easy to fake an email but quite easy in most cases to prove a fake) is unclear. That said they just confirm what has been spoken about privately for some time. They said: “I have a large investment and plan to make a bigger one. Gillett has held us back financially, but that will change. In the end, one person must have responsibility for making decisions. It has been very difficult for George and me to agree on things (Klinsmann) and DIC wanted their people to have an equal vote on things like keeping Rafa (I will), signing players and managing the business.” After seeing so many of these issues take an age to resolve, or to not be resolved at all, Hicks was reluctant to enter into another 50-50 arrangement with people he trusted even less than Gillett.

He accepted the club wasn’t being run as well as it could be, something that he hinted pre-dates his arrival: “The club has not been run very well for a long time now. I intend to fix the problems,” he pledged.

Despite the claims that Hicks has put none of his own money into the club actual details of how the current finance is set up haven’t been revealed in great detail. However there are now huge chunks of Hicks’ personal fortune being used as security on the club, and although he could prevent it being used if Liverpool did hit the rocks he still feels he’s taken a risk by tying it up in this way: “I have taken huge risks because I believe our club can be the best in the world again.”

Klinsmann was interviewed by both, and Hicks wasn’t forced to agree the job offer to him, but it’s been suggested for some time he was far from the driving force to get Rafa out of the club. And he seems to have taken Gillett’s word on just how good Klinsmann was: “Gillett knew Klinsmann from Vail [Colorado]. In hindsight, it was a big mistake, but I have publicly, and privately, backed Rafa since our meeting December 16th.” Hicks trusted, if this is to be believed, Gillett’s judgement due to his superior knowledge of soccer, a mistake he’ll not make again.

The alleged emails also echoed a high level of confidence in the Hicks camp that they can end the troubles of the past months without DIC’s involvement: “The finances will be fine. We are playing much better. DIC has been playing the press like a drum. Our new stadium will be the best in the world.”

If that level of confidence can be converted into facts then DIC being taken out of the picture would be less of a disaster than it currently seems to most. If Hicks really is prepared to fight to do the right thing then getting rid of Gillett is the main issue. But there is more ‘evidence’ against Hicks than for him, and so he needs to prove those intentions soon before protests become unstoppable.

In the wake of those emails came Gillett’s comments, his silence finally broken. Reluctant to blame the credit crunch for his financial difficulties, given that sends out a message within the US that he’s not a good person to join forces with right now, Gillett instead blamed the exchange rate between the US dollar and other currencies. “We’ve invested internationally with Liverpool and with Montreal in Canada,” he said, “and it’s had a very positive effect on both of them from the standpoint of strengthening the value.” What he means is that having turned £45m of debt into £350m of debt, the minimum price to buy the club without either owner getting a profit or making a loss has shot up to £350m, compared to the £220m paid a year ago. The club hasn’t benefitted from the extra borrowing, the owners wouldn’t benefit from a sale at £350m, the only winners are RBS and Wachovia. Yet Gillett is proud! Obviously there are always going to be additional changes in value related to currency fluctuations, to raise £350m needs more dollars now than it did ten years ago, but the single reason LFC has gone up in price is because of the debt related to it.

In fact reading Gillett’s comments it was easy to assume that the dollar had plummeted compared to the pound in the 13 months or so since he part-bought Liverpool. But a quick check of rates in early 2007 compared to early 2008 show little difference. The exchange rate at the beginning of this month was 1.985 dollars to the pound. The exchange rate at the beginning of February last year, the time of the takeover announcements, was 1.969. Less than two cents difference, and although that two cents multiplies out quite a bit when you’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars it’s unbelievably deceitful for Gillett to blame exchange rates in this way for his broken promises on transfers. But that’s what he does: “On the other hand, it’s made it more difficult in terms of investing in those businesses because the dollar is really tremendously weak compared to where we started. It just costs us more to send money to those franchises, those business.”

The dollar dropped to a new low against the Euro yesterday, but it’s hardly been healthy for the last year compared to European currency, and every obvious lie calls into question every debatable truth.

Gillett spent money he probably couldn’t afford buying into a sport he does understand when he took a majority share of what is now called the Gillett Evernham Motorsports team in NASCAR.  He claims, despite having not been near the club this year for his “speak Scouse to me” demands, that he likes all of his sports interests, including the Canadiens hockey team: “I’m really enjoying all three, but for different reasons. In Liverpool, it’s a long distance away and there’s been a fair amount of controversy over there.”

At least he’s noticed. Even if he’s not acknowledged his part in it. This makes the next comment so annoying: “In spite of that, the boys are playing very well and I’m proud of them.” George, they’re not something for you to be proud of. Your desertion of the club means they are not really your boys to be proud of. You can be pleased for them, perhaps, but they’ve done much better without you on the scene than on it, just as soon as it was made clear you were no longer in touch with the manager.

Tomorrow is the next meeting of Spirit of Shankly, the Liverpool supporters’ union, at the Olympia at 12 noon. The union want what’s best for the club, and whatever Hicks and DIC have up their respective sleeves in terms of Liverpool’s future, it’s clear that Gillett has nothing at all up his. Instead his hands are sticking out from those sleeves, palms up in readiness for up to £80m of easy profit so he can disappear into the sunset ready for his next victim.

14 thoughts on “At last Gillett speaks, but tries to shift blame”

  1. Whilst I can accept this piece as comment upon Gilletts part in the current situation it seems a little unfair on him to rationalise his reluctance to blame the credit crunch because his individual financial position would be weakened by doing so and then hit him because the defense he does put up is without credence. We surely don’t want the fellow bankrupt, just out of our club!   Jim if I am wrong in reading the mid-section of the article as a plea for understanding of Hicks’ position you will no doubt correct me but it seems almost unbelievable to me that any case be made for Hicks as a safe custodian of LFC on the grounds that he is less of a villain than George Gillett. A simple Google on Hicks and UTIMCO will tell the story of Bush cronyism and dubious use of funds (other people’s) and investments. Search again on Hicks/Carlyle Group (coincidentally filing for bankruptcy yesterday) will tell a similar tale. But leave aside the chequered past, the dollar is in the deepest hole it has ever been in, the price of oil is rising to compensate for the dollars’ demise. Hicks ability to service any £ based debt was difficult a week ago – it is nonexistent almost today. The club quite simply is in unsafe hands financially.  In this economic morass DIC are in position of strength relative to Hicks and it is simple business sense for them to take a back seat whilst their target suffers. Jim, the tone of your piece vis a vis DIC is confusing you castigate them for their outpouring of statements to the media on the one hand then give them more stick when they refuse to respond to the media’s demand for a statement on the “management by committee” issue. Damned if they do and double damned if they don’t.  

  2. Although Hicks is still very much a figure of hatred a good majority of the fans seem willing to at least give him some plaudits for his outspoken efforts to turn the situation at the club around or at least to be seeing to be making the right noises with regard to future of the club.

    Gilettes low profile over past months is bordering on cowardice but I still consider it a dignified silence in comparison to Hicks.

    Gilette is no longer trying to win us over with false promises, theres no talk on building "the worlds best stadium" when funds to build it arent yet even in place. He didnt come out and continually deny being in talks with DIC when he had been all along. 

    Gilette  may be a ghostly presence at the club since news of the Klinsmann situation broke but I think his silence is more in tune with the way Liverpool has previously been run than the PR spinning media circus Hicks has brought to town.

    Gilette and Hicks never set out to stain the clubs history in the way that they have, they were two eager businessmen that saw an opportunity to buy into something great. Gilette at least now realises what he has bitten off is more than he can chew.

    But hes damned if he does and damned if he doesnt. We are protesting for him to leave but when the signs are that is finally selling up we castigate him further for taking his profit and running.

    His speech gave no impression of trying to pass the buck but was more an admission that he has tried, failed and if he wasnt been prevented by his other half is willing to move on.

    Hicks on the other hand continues to show us contempt, continues to spin us lies and most of all continues to prevent the safeguarding and development of the club in search of his own greater financial gain.

  3. No offence but what aload of bollocks.Hick’s position is beyond saviour. How can anyone claim that there is still a chance for him to prove himself? He has lied time and time again he was there when Klinsmann was interviewed he was there when they both spouted their bullshit they are as bad as each other and in an ideal world both need removing.
    The reality is though that neither of them gives 2 f**ks about the fans and anyone who thinks they do is deluded.They own the club we the fans do not and never will. Share liverpool will never work despite people using Barca etc as examples these clubs have been owned by the fans for decades if not longer. As much as it hurts me and all the other millions of fans out there we cannot make a difference. For every person prepared to give up his seat his season ticket or to stop buying merchandise there is an infinite amount waiting to take their place and there always will be. Look at all the fuss at Man U its made no difference look at Leeds the way they have crumbled, if our club owners decide thats the way they want us to go then thats the way it will be.
    We know very little about whats actually going on behind the scenes, just look at the fact an offer was made by DIC a week before anyone knew about it.We the fans don’t matter to these people all we can do is sit and watch all thanks to the greedy leeches called Mr Moores and Mr Parry and their replacements the equally greedy Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett.

  4. I don’t believe the spin of Hicks as much as i believe the comments that Gillett has made.

    These so called emails to fans blaming Gillett by Hicks are pure propaganda and are deliberately placed to shift blame and responsibility away from Hick’s own actions.

    How can the finances be fine when a quick look at the maths and interest payments clearly show that they are inhibitive?

  5. jim, excellent work again in showing that the exchange rate argument was nothing but a deception. GG never had any intention of putting money into liverpool. therein lied the attractiveness of the deal. US sport leagues dont allow LBOs. unfortunately, the english fa does not even attempt to regulate member clubs finances any more. the administration of the game in england is truly awful. 

  6. I definitely don’t believe Hicks. Full stop

    Believing DIC is equally hard. But as they haven’t given a press conference to explicitly compare their promises against their deeds, I’m more for them than against them – particularly if the only other option is Hicks.

    At some point we have to move forward and Hicks is a painful reminder of the present and the past. He needs to go.

    What Gillett has done through his minimal words to the world is tell us that two into one doesn’t go. And that both he and Hicks are untrustworthy.

    The future means one owner – or at least one person making the decisions (not Hicks and his Public Relations scarf wearing sons). And with Rafa at the helm, of course!

  7. I too am more wary of Hicks than of DIC in the current stalemate. I am quite surprised that Jim Boardman should think it possible for Hicks to make amends  for his numerous lies and prevarications. I wouldn’t call Gillett’s aloofness ‘dignified’, but he seems to have grasped that more washing of dirty linen in public can only be detrimental to the club and to all the parties involved. Anyhow, since Hicks clearly does not have the funds to buy Gillett, and since one DIC is definitely better than two (as confessed by Hicks himself), it is only a matter of time until the Texan is cornered into selling
    his Merseyside ‘franchise’ and lifts his opposition to Gillett’s sale of his half. I don’t think this is wishfulfilment. Well, I hope it’s not! 

  8. Citigroup have had 7.5billion US$ pumped into them by Abu Dhabi – One of the wives of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Makhtoum is the sister of the ruler of Adu Dhabi -look out for Citigroup being touted as interested in Gillett’s shares. If the front door wont open??? 

  9. Yeah no doubt in my mind.  Get both Gillett and Hicks out anyway we can.  Which will happen sooner or later anyway–there’s no reason for them to be there except to maximise the price they can get out of DIC.

  10. Hicks and Gillet are like two peas in a pod they both want a big payout and they are working DIC over to get them to raise the anty.
    The dark horse in this game is the spirit of Shankley and the momentum is slowly moving into our camp. We should continue to set up our position and collect the real supporters from around the world who want to join in the fun and the future will hold a lot of promise for a fan based ownership or our club in the future.
    I am convinced that we will look back at these dark days and rejoice in the fact that Scousers rule and the yanks will be gone. I have committed for a share in the club and will relish the day when I get confirmation that we are now shareholders in the greatest club in the world.

  11. Hicks is a sportsman…he’ll keep the team.  He’s not good at picking managers. i.e. Texas Rangers but he always has invested $ for good players but will also make bad trades (baseball).  He can’t get the Rangers going in a great baseball market and I see Liverpool being above average with his ownership.

  12. gee thanks! Above average? – so at least we can go for the intertoto cup each year

  13. For those that don’t know, and that includes Mr. Hicks the sportsman, being in the Intertoto Cup is as welcome as being invited to Dinner with G.Bush in Iraq. You just wouldn’t do it!

    So, Goldy-Dallas Texas, please keep your beloved Mr. Hicks. We do not want him. All we want is for him and his family to get out of our club. The sooner the better too!

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