Purslow: LFC bidders being checked then sale as soon as possible

After a period away from the public eye Christian Purslow put himself right back into focus this morning by speaking to the BBC about the speculation surrounding the club. According to the Liverpool managing director the board are now carrying out checks on those behind written bids for the club after which they intend to see the club sold “as soon as possible”.

There has been a refreshing silence from the boardroom since the appointment of Roy Hodgson as manager. The club have left the football people to do the talking about the football; the senior management scaling back their contact with the media and a noticeable decline in the amount of “off record” briefings filtering their way onto the back pages, at least from the club. Actual interviews had all but dried up.

Quite why Purslow decided to speak out today is a bit of a mystery. The club issued a statement on Friday night saying that as far as the sales process was concerned, “we will not comment on rumour and speculation.” Purslow himself today said: “It wouldn’t be for me to comment on the football side.” So what was left for him to comment on? As it was he spoke at length about both “the football side” and the sales process.

His opinion on the football side should be of no importance right now,  what matters far more is the part of his job he actually has the experience and qualifications to work on. Along with chairman Martin Broughton and commercial director Ian Ayre the Liverpool MD is about to be an important part of what will be one of the most crucial decisions in Liverpool’s history.

Their votes can overrule any attempts by Tom Hicks and George Gillett to extend their state of denial that this investment is one that just didn’t work out for them, that there isn’t going to be a massive profit, that they will make a serious loss if they don’t sell soon.

Hicks and Gillett struggling to hold onto LFCThe signs are promising that the three non-owner board members are going to work with each other and not side with the owners. When Purslow got onto the topic of ownership this morning he spoke like someone who’d forgotten how much use he’d had from off-record briefings to the press over the course of his first year in the role. Instead he sounded like he was reading from a script prepared by Martin Broughton, a script expressing displeasure at any attempts to circumvent the process that the chairman had put in place. He said: “I’m not going to comment on the specifics – indeed it is a source of great frustration and mystification for me – that so many people who may or may not be interested in buying Liverpool prefer to tell newspapers that’s the case than the board of the club.”

Given the conduct of certain senior people at the club in recent years he shouldn’t be surprised at all.

He said that now the bids are in the board had to scrutinise the contents and verify the credibility of the bidders: “What I can say is that we do have a number of bids for the club. The board is going to take its time to examine those extremely carefully.

“Our number one priority – and I speak for myself and my chairman, and the independent directors – is to make sure we know what we would be getting into with any new owner.” The suggestion being that although the English members of the board might be working towards a common goal the owners have perhaps got somewhat different ideas about what is most important.

“That is our number one priority,” he continued, “we take that deadly seriously; to know who they are, where the money is coming from, what their plans are and to establish that there is a real commitment for a very long term stable and secure financial position for the club.”

There is little to suggest that more than two bids came in for the club, and no indication as to how seriously both bids are being taken. Although the board clearly want to take their time to ensure there isn’t another nightmare to follow after a change of hands the time required to authenticate the offers should still be fairly minimal.

And according to Purslow a speedy resolution is still important, almost as important as ensuring the stability of the bidders: “Second to that priority – and it’s a very close second – is to sell the club as soon as possible. And we have a process underway, it’s ongoing, I wish I could guarantee it will happen, I can’t, but we’re not going to comment on the specifics. The process is governed by very strict confidentiality.”

Fans are putting a lot of faith in Martin Broughton, Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre as the three members of the board with a vote to use but no personal profit to consider. Asked if they’d vote to sell to someone found to be “not the right person” Purslow was clear: “Categorically not.”

On Friday night the club issued a statement that referred to “proposed bids”, suggesting that formal bids were yet to be received, but according to Purslow the bids have now been made, in writing. He was asked if there was a favourite: “No there is not, there is not. We have, as I say, just received some written bids and at this stage it would be wrong to categorise anyone as a front runner.”

And have those bidders proved they have the funds? “Not yet,” said Purslow.

The bids only arrived late last week and the likelihood is that it is now a matter for RBS and Barcap to verify the funding behind those bids. However the Sunday Times suggested they had been given a different view of events, referring to “sources close to the talks” saying that “none of the potential buyers could prove they had the money”. The report also said that RBS was “preparing to take control of Liverpool FC as the search for a buyer peters out.”

Purslow was asked about those claims: “Well I’m not going to comment on newspaper articles and certainly ones I haven’t read. What I will say is that we have excellent relations at the football club with our lead bankers RBS, we’ve been in constant dialogue with them since the time I’ve been at the club and before and I am extremely comfortable with that working relationship and that sounds a rather speculative story to me.”

Asked if RBS would take over should the sale process fail, Purslow said: “No, not at all. RBS have been creating the environment in which we can take our time to sell the club, that is Plan A, B, C, D with their full support.”

Martin Broughton said in July that he hoped a deal would be done by the end of August. Purslow was asked when he thought the deal might be concluded: “I don’t know. I really don’t know.

“I’m not going to put a time limit on it, we’re in the process, we’re broadly where we hoped to be when the process was launched at Easter, namely to have initial bids by August, that’s where we are but the challenge now is to sort the wheat from the chaff.”

How long that will take, Purslow was extremely vague: “As I say, it’s underway, but the outcome remains uncertain and unclear. I wouldn’t expect it to be a lifetime but I wouldn’t expect it to be tomorrow.”

Many Liverpool fans would say that every day under the current owners feels like a lifetime. Few fans expect a takeover to be complete in time to make any difference to the spending plans for this transfer window, but what fans want to be able to do is to get back to talking about, thinking about and watching football again, as soon as possible.

9 thoughts on “Purslow: LFC bidders being checked then sale as soon as possible”

  1. If Plan A, B, C , D & E is to sell the club then surely something has to take place before October?

    I was hoping for some transfer money to be available this month but I would rather a full, detailed and thorough process take place as it the repercussions of the next takeover are huge for everyone involved at the club. The radio silence of the past few weeks can only be seen as a good thing. Purlsow’s interview doesn’t really tell us anything we didi not already know.

    After your excellent piece Jim on the laughable Syrian led consortium and the wide coverage that it received, it seems like there are, at best, two serious bids to be considered emanating from China & Kuwait. Maybe there is potential third bid which could be a dark horse with the Sahara Group?

    If what I have read is true (that Tom & George are personally liable the tune of £2.5 million PIK charges every week from now) my worry is that the asking price will escalate to cover these bank charges. I am lost for words as to just how blood sucking those two are.

    With their present track record they should be banned from owning ANY sports club in the future. Their reputation (if ever they had any) has been torn to shreds and they are clinging on to LFC for their dear lives. The end game is near, but what are we in for next?

    It is a Royal Mess that we are in and it’s is a terrible feeling just waiting.

    On the footballing front we fought hard today and I was gutted to lose the goal when we were so close to starting with a win. Everyone seems to be assuming Arsenal will make the top 4 but I thought we were just as good as them and showed heart. Joe Cole should never have been sent off but he was naive going in two footed into that challenge.

    Joe…..you owe us a win!

    Mascherano was immense and it will be a shame to lose him. Why couldn’t he have married a Scouse lass?!!!!!!

  2. I, personally, would have the chinaman in charge of the club. Although he might not seem to have the money that the syrians seem to have, he presents a more honest picture. He has also, i believe, taken the effort to interact with the SOS.

    As for the Sahara Group, I believe they have pulled out. I am from India myself, and they had said so on the news here.

  3. Rory Smith (Telegraph sports writer) is reporting on Twitter in last couple of minutes that if the Times’ story on takeover is same as his then it’s probably true.

    So Jim, what is this news? Are you able to say anything?

    I hope it’s good news and nothing that will cause the sale process to stutter.

  4. @Ray I can’t say anything yet.

    If you mean good news as in the takeover being done then no – the takeover’s not been done yet.

    There will be some positive news in the Times story but it’s going to be balanced out with some less than positive news. That sounds pretty cryptic, definitely one of those glass half-full / half-empty scenarios though.

    The Telegraph story might be the same, not sure.

    One other story that’s likely to be in tonight’s papers, or one other part of the LFC takeover story, is something mentioned by Bloomberg’s @tariqpanja on Twitter: “If RBS does end up seizing #LFC it’s not going to allow administration to occur. Likely to pass keys to new ‘responsible’ owner sharpish”

  5. Hi Jim,

    Thanks for getting back. Appreciate you can’t break any news yet. Are you aware of the Guardian story tonight regarding Kenny getting frustrated and “may” walk away?

    The RBS story concerns me as they hand the keys to unfit person. MB has to be given time to arrive at correct decision. Surely that time must be getting close.

    Await your news with interest when you’re able to speak.

  6. Hi Ray,

    The story’s been published by the Times now too. More or less the same as the Guardian one but in a lot more depth.

    The Times headline tonight was: “Chinese on the verge of walking out on Liverpool takeover deal” – the story was by Tony Evans and Helen Power.

    Briefly it says Huang has delivered a “take-it-or-leave-it” message to Broughton because he feels delaying tactics are being used. He doesn’t believe there are any viable offers apart from his own. The Times also say some senior members of Liverpool FC’s hierarchy are concerned at the slow pace of the sale process.

    The Times reaffirmed their previous claims that Huang has CIC backing. They say Huang feels this is a ploy to push up the price. As for suggestions from LFC that no bidders have provided proof of funding yet, the Chinese bid have supplied all the documents the club/Barcap said they required as defined in their “memorandum of sale”, which is the document the bidders follow to put their bids in.

    The report says the Chinese offer would eliminate all the club’s debt and would also bring “large-scale investment” as part of what would be a total spend of around £800 million.

    What they don’t want to do is use more of that £800m on paying Hicks and Gillett than is necessary, as that takes away from the amount that is actually put to good use on the club itself.

    Times also quote an unnamed RBS source as saying Huang’s bid is already “there or thereabouts” on providing proof of funding. (I took this to mean that the Chinese have provided all the evidence asked for, RBS/Barcap have checked most of this out and what they’ve checked has come back fine, there’s a little bit left to check, but no concerns yet. That’s my take on it at least).

    The Times also say RBS believe Huang has the most credible bid and that RBS played down this idea that there were five bidders in total.

    So – back to my view again – it’s time for Martin Broughton to show Kenny Huang that there are other serious bidders, or own up to there not being any. If the delay is to allow more time for background checks then say so. But on the face of it there really is no need for a lengthy delay.

  7. This lines up with a yarn on the football-rumours website that appeared earlier. That one suggests there’s a game of brinksmanship going on between Broughton wanting more money out of the Huang bid, and Huang not wanting to give H+G anything more than absolutely necessary. That story also suggests the announcement that became an almost non-announcement by Purslow on Friday evening was for ostensibly the same reason.

    Quote: ‘Here is the latest from the “famous” Bamba an person who is well connected to the action with all that is going on at LFC with regard to the takeover:

    “Just to bring a little sanity to the guessing-games as to who I’m ‘working for’. No-one. I’m certainly not cheerleading one particular bid. I salute the work Jack Slater and others are doing in urging caution and proper detailed scrutiny before we welcome a new bunch of well-heeled saviours through the Shankly Gates. That said, the Huang bid is the one I know a lot about; have done for a while; and am satisfied, via friends, colleagues and contacts inside and outside LFC and the City of London financial community, that his bid and his proposal for the future development of the club stacks up. If there’s another bid of substance that is currently on the table complete with proof of funding, then neither myself or anyone I rely upon for a credible inside track knows about it.

    There was definitely a feeling on Friday afternoon that Huang was to be named preferred bidder. It remains a mystery as to why the club advised, around tea-time last Friday, that an official statement was coming within the hour, only for the non-committal statement we all saw to be issued some three or four hours later. It was also odd listening to Christian Purslow state on 5Live that no bid was jumping out as being particularly attractive at the moment, and none had supplied proof of funding. Huang’s bid came complete with the necessary proofs, though a well-placed financial journalist thinks the club has asked for more documentation.

    The same journo is convinced that Huang’s proposed takeover has come down to a blinking match. Martin Broughton is looking for a richer valuation than Huang is prepared to pay. Huang is adamant he’ll put as little profit as possible in the current owners’ pockets. Something has to give, and it could be that Huang retires for the time being, if a deal can’t be concluded in time for Roy Hodgson to invest in the current transfer market.

    In terms of my gagging, Alan F has it spot on. By a process of elimination, those closest to the sale process will work out who is giving classified information to the likes of myself. For my part, I’ve passed some of that on to the moderators of this site, so they’re satisfied there’s no skulduggery or stealth PR going on. There’s a lot of fascinating detail to reveal, and in time it will all come out. For now, I really am going to shut it. I want Hicks and Gillett gone, and I’m not saying anything more that might in any way stop, or delay that happening.

    Keep checking The Times. The two Tonys speak to the same people, and they’re the only journalists who keep calling this takeover accurately.” ‘

    Wouldn’t normally give much credit to anything on football-rumours, but maybe this one has a credible source.

  8. Hi JIm, Thanks for the update. After the debacle of the last sale I don’t suppose you can blame MB for taking his time. Kenny wants a quick sale so he can make funds available for players but any deal done now would command premium prices. And in fairness to Roy, who would be on his shopping list?

    It all depends on whether H&G are leaning on MB to delay things in the hope of getting a higher bid. Maybe that is what’s behind the events of Friday.

    Given what I’ve read and heard so far both he and the other 2 board members are behind the sale and against just about anything H&G come up with as it would probably be in their interests and not LFC’s.

    I doubt Kenny will walk. Having gone this far and being so close to owning the club he will stick it out. He’s just rattling a few cages to focus attention on his bid.

    Interesting report from Hop too. Things sound tantalisingly close to a resolution.

  9. Let’s all just hope that Kenny is the saviour that you all seem to think he is. Personally I smell something not quite right about him – somewhere in there the plan will be for leverage and it’s very important that this cannot happen again.

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