Feb 2 2008
EXCLUSIVE by Ian Doyle & David Bartlett, Liverpool Daily Post
DUBAI-BASED consortium DIC was last night set to join forces with Liverpool FC co-owner George Gillett in a bid to buy out his partner Tom Hicks.
Events could move forward within a matter of days, with figures close to the club anxious to see a rapid conclusion to what is seen as a damaging distraction at a crucial time in the season.
Relations between Gillett and Hicks are at an all time low, with Gillett remaining silent, but understood to be privately furious with his partner’s unsanctioned public statements over club affairs.
Gillett originally brokered the deal to buy Liverpool, but was forced to bring the significantly wealthier Hicks on board to be able to afford the buy-out.
Now, with the first anniversary of the takeover looming next week, relations have soured between the two men to such a degree that Gillett’s son Foster, who moved to Liverpool to represent the Americans and work alongside club chief executive Rick Parry, returned to the US 3½ weeks ago, and has not been seen at the club since.
The Daily Post understands that Foster Gillett and his wife have no plans to return to the city, despite having recently bought a £1m home in Woolton. The final twist of the knife for George Gillett came when Hicks went public last month with their approach in November to Jurgen Klinsmann as a possible replacement for beleaguered manager Rafael Benitez.
DIC (Dubai International Capital), led by Sameer Al Ansari whose £4,500 a share offer for Liverpool last year was trumped when Hicks helped Gillett to bankroll a successful £5,000 a share offer, are known to be keen to test the resolution of the Americans with a new offer.
Hicks has stated repeatedly that he has no intention of selling in the short term. It is believed he sees the potential to sell the club for well over £1bn in 2012, if the 70,000 seater stadium plan is delivered.
But Gillett is equally determined to hang on to his interest in the club, seeing the whole takeover as his deal, with Hicks merely providing the financial clout to make it happen.
With relations between the pair at such a low ebb, insiders doubt whether both of them can remain as co-owners. The Dubai proposal would allow Gillett to carry forward his plans, while allowing Hicks an exit-strategy with a healthy profit on his 12 months investment.
One source close to the negotiations told the Daily Post last night: “Discussions are still ongoing with DIC. They would be happy to take Hicks out and work with Gillett, or they would be happy to take both of them out.
“But DIC doesn’t want to pay Hicks a huge premium. The key is to get a deal done within days rather than weeks.
“All this has been a huge distraction at the club. Hicks insists on valuing the club at £1bn because he includes the valuation after the stadium is in place, yet it is not even built and doesn’t even have planning permission for the 70,000 seats.”
Hicks has matched Gillett’s £20m personal investment in the club following last week’s £350m refinancing deal, and is likely to be offered double that sum by the Dubai consortium to walk away.
No-one for DIC was available to comment last night while Mr Gillett’s office declined to discuss the matter.
Liverpool FC had no comment to make on the issue.
But a spokesman for Tom Hicks told the Daily Post he remained determined to stay at Liverpool FC.
He said: “As we have said previously and repeatedly, Liverpool Football Club is not for sale.
“Mr Hicks has been very clear in terms of the club not being for sale and that has not changed in any way, shape or form.”