27 February 2008

Reports of imminent Liverpool sale 'false', insists Hicks

By Nick HarrisWednesday, 27 February 2008

Liverpool's co-owner, Tom Hicks, insisted yesterday that he has no plans to sell his stake in the club and described reports that he has granted permission for Dubai International Capital (DIC) to inspect the books ahead of a mooted takeover as "absolutely and categorically false".
That stance reiterates the position Hicks has maintained throughout DIC's circling of the club, but Liverpool's future remains clouded. Hicks, for all his protestations, has maintained contact with DIC since a £350m refinancing deal last month apparently cemented his and co-owner George Gillett's ownership.
No price for a sale has been discussed, but Hicks could provide no outright denial of those talks yesterday. "If he's not interested in selling, why is he still talking to us?" asked a DIC source.
There is also a growing rift between Hicks and his American compatriot, Gillett, who is understood to be a more willing seller. But DIC, an investment vehicle ultimately controlled by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, one of the world's richest men, acknowledges privately that an imminent takeover "is far from certain".
DIC would want assurances of being able to buy at least 51 per cent of the club to invest at all. If Hicks will not sell, no deal will happen. Hicks is only likely to change his mind about staying at Liverpool if the team miss out on qualifying for next season's Champions League.
That would leave a £20m-plus hole in Liverpool's budget next year, and probably require Hicks and Gillett to inject some of their own money, for the first time, which they may or may not be able to do.
For the moment, Hicks says: "Reports that I am about to sell my stake in the Liverpool Football Club, or to invite DIC to examine the club's books in preparation for such a sale – like other such reports planted in the UK press by parties with their own self-interested agenda – are absolutely and categorically false. The reality is that I am personally, professionally and financially committed to the club and its supporters and that I will continue to honour that commitment to the best of my ability now and in the future."
The phrase "best of my ability" gives the merest hint of future financial vulnerability. Nobody argues that Liverpool, in a new 60,000-seat stadium at some unspecified date, can be hugely profitable. Getting from now to then – and funding that stadium – is where the uncertainty lies.

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