21 January 2008

Liverpool fans set for demo over Anfield owners

No matter how loudly Kop protest, only sound they hear is dollar rustle

David Maddock 21/01/2008

There will be a passionate outpouring of emotion at Anfield tonight when Liverpool fans display their anger and contempt for their American owners.
But it will not even register 4,000 miles away in the United States as Tom Hicks and George Gillett go about their business of making money and electing US presidents.
A year ago, the pair were seen as the saviours of Anfield, the good-guy gunslingers who rode into town to provide the financial firepower to launch a realistic challenge to megarich Chelsea and Manchester United.
A year ago, senior officials at the club were briefing furiously against DIC - the investment arm of the Dubai government - suggesting that their rival bid was nowhere near as attractive as the American vision of the Anfield future.
A year later, those same officials are now desperately backing DIC's attempt to buy out Hicks and Gillett, suggesting that only a takeover by the Arabs can save the great Merseyside club.
But don't expect the two billionaires to be moved by the passion of the fans or the disapproval of the men they bought Liverpool from.
Some time this week, Hicks and Gillett intend to announce their successful negotiation of a £350million refinancing package that puts their purchase of Liverpool on a more solid footing by reducing the level of interest rates they are currently paying on the loans they took out.
They also hope to unveil their plans for the £300m stadium they see as the key to a prosperous future for Liverpool... no matter who is in charge.
That in itself means little to the prospects of DIC purchasing Liverpool. But it does mean that the £300m the Arabs have so far offered to buy the club will not be enough.
As we exclusively reveal today, Hicks and Gillett have dismissed that offer - after two weeks of informal talks - as being almost laughable against their future valuation of the club.
And that is why the protests against them and the passionate support for manager Rafa Benitez from the fans will not make a blind bit of difference to their hard-headed stance.
The future of Liverpool comes down to money. Cold-blooded, cold-hearted money in a sport of warm-blooded, hot-headed passion. DIC's current offer is generous enough. It is effectively £80m more than they were about to buy the club for less than 12 months ago, and that after debts have increased at Anfield significantly. It would give the Americans a handsome profit of £20m-£30m EACH in less than a year - for doing little more than putting a deal together.
But the bottom line is this: they believe that when they build a stadium with the club's own money in less than five years, the profit can be 10 times that.
There are indications the Americans want to sell. Gary Richardson, the presenter of Sportsweek on BBC Radio, quotes one close relative of Hicks as saying in the Liverpool boardroom: "I can't wait to get rid of this club, I'm sick and tired of it."
There is also evidence of a rift between Gillett and Hicks, with both men said to be distrustful of the other.
As Joe McClean, of accountants Grant Thornton's football finance unit, said yesterday: "The Hicks - Gillett axis has been fractured for some time and if someone is offering them a significant capital gain then it might prove to be irresistible."
There is also clear evidence that DIC are determined to buy Liverpool and put in place a strategy to end the current political and financial wranglings.
But the key is just how much they are prepared to pay. Insiders in Dubai suggest that they believe £300m is above what they see as the 'true value' of the club. But the American duo's 'true value' once the stadium is built is closer to £1billion.
Meanwhile, the club lurches on, with manager Benitez attempting to keep his players' minds on the game He has a game against Villa tonight that he knows he must win if he is to keep at bay the pack chasing the fourth Champions League spot, yet it seems football is the last thing on anyone's mind at Anfield.
It is a mess, maybe even - as one insider in the Hicks camp said last week - "a disaster." But that same insider also said that the Americans are also determined to "do the right thing."
And for two billionaires who have made their money buying struggling companies and making vast profits out of them, the right thing is to hold out for the highest price possible.

No comments:



The GOLDEN Team of Kenny Daglish

The GOLDEN Team of Kenny Daglish
If we have them now, say farewell to Arsenal, Man.U and Chelsea... if...