21 January 2008

Liverpool fans crave Dubai ending to nightmare

By David Bond
Last Updated: 2:15am GMT 21/01/2008

Liverpool fans planning what is likely to be the first in a series of anti-American protests at Anfield tonight are in no doubt. Having seen their bid dramatically trumped by Tom Hicks and George Gillett last year, Dubai International Capital are the only solution to a crisis distinctly out of keeping with the club's dignified and illustrious history.
At the same time as angry supporters were bombarding Hicks's New York-based public relations advisers, Kekst, with abusive emails last week, desperate electronic missives were being sent to DIC's Dubai offices urging the country's fabulously rich ruling al-Maktoum family to launch a rescue bid for Liverpool.
That bid, which could be worth around £350 million, remains on hold today following a refusal from Hicks to allow DIC access to talk to his bankers, Royal Bank of Scotland.
Hicks wants to wait until after a £350 million refinancing is concluded in the next few days, believing that he will then be able to ask DIC for more money.
But DIC are anxious to strike immediately, fearing the financial position of the club will only worsen if the refinancing goes through. In addition to around £25 million of 'rolled up' interest, the refinancing is set to cost £15 million in fees to the banks, RBS and Wachovia. DIC are likely to reduce the value of their offer to Hicks and Gillett in order to ensure that no more money is wasted. Another £20 million is thought to have been spent on fees to architects for the delayed new £400 million stadium at Stanley Park.
Despite threats that they will walk away if the refinancing goes through, DIC remain committed to buying Liverpool. That will be welcomed by supporters who, according to one online poll last week, overwhelmingly want to see Hicks and Gillett replaced by DIC. Just one per cent want to see the Americans remain in charge while 83 per cent want to see DIC take over.
But would DIC necessarily be the answer? In terms of financial muscle there can be no question that they are far more powerful.Although DIC chief executive Samir Al Ansari, a lifelong Liverpool supporter, will want to run the club along proper commercial lines, he is backed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and will be able to call on tens of billions of pounds. Crucially, with the stadium plans on hold, DIC will be able to dodge the global credit crunch by borrowing from Dubai state funds at lower interest rates.
Gillett, the owner of the Montreal Canadiens ice hockey team, was never likely to be the sort of super-rich chairman Liverpool needed. That is why, as DIC stalled over the deal last December, he brought in Hicks to help him secure the club. Hicks, one of the pioneers of leveraged takeovers in the United States, has a wealth estimated at $1.3 billion (£665 million), according to last year's Forbes magazine 'Rich List'. But the Dallas Stars and Texas Rangers owner has been hit hard by the credit crunch.
There is also a question of will. Hicks and Gillett only put up £7.5 million each to secure the costly loans taken out with RBS last year to buy the club in a £220 million deal. And the new refinancing deal has stalled largely because of the Americans' attempt to load that debt on to the club's books and their reluctance to put up more of their own cash.
DIC sources, on the other hand, insist they have a true and long-term commitment to Liverpool - despite leaks of a sensitive City document last year which set out how they could reap a 25 per cent profit if they sold out by 2012. DIC sources insist there was never any intention to sell the club on so quickly.
In the absence of any serious rival bidder, DIC are seen as the only way of ending what has turned from an American dream into a nightmare

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