04 March 2008

Tom Hicks holds key to Liverpool future

Mar 4 2008
by Tony Barrett, Liverpool Echo

DUBAI International Capital's interest in Liverpool Football Club has been the biggest open secret in English football for the past three months.
Today, that interest has hardened and a solid bid to buy the club for £400m has been lodged with American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett which would allow them to walk away with a whopping £25m profit each.
While the fight for fourth place in the Premiership has been dominating the thoughts of Liverpool fans in recent days, the battle which matters most is the one going on between financial big hitters in London, Dubai, Dallas and Colorado. DIC is desperate to get its hands on the club, that is clear. Gillett has signalled his willingness to sell his 50% stake. These two should be treated as facts and not speculation.
The only grey area that remains revolves around the intentions of Hicks.
In recent weeks, the Dallas-based millionaire has insisted he has no intention of selling up. And he has done so again and again and again.
At face value, this could be taken to mean that Hicks is unwilling to listen to any offers for his stake and he would be well within his rights to maintain this stance.
But with every public utterance that he is not about to sell comes a nagging doubt that maybe, just maybe, he is protesting too much and is simply holding out for the highest possible price.
The problem is, DIC appear unwilling to dance to that particular tune, even if it is the one that Hicks is trying to play.
They have come up with an offer which they feel is more than fair for an asset which changed hands for £171m just 13 months ago and are unwilling to pay over the odds.
As this game of hardball is played out before our eyes - now with the added extra of a midnight deadline imposed by DIC - Liverpool fans would be entitled to ask how the hell their club has ended up in such a sorry state.
Much of their ire has been focused on Hicks and Gillett who are about as popular on the Kop as Gary Neville.
A series of fans protests has delivered the message that the two Americans are no longer wanted. But in recent weeks, there has also been a slight shift in emphasis among certain fans who want to know how the club came to be owned by Hicks and Gillett in the first place.
They want to know exactly why former chairman David Moores sanctioned the sale to the American duo ahead of DIC when the club was up for sale over a year ago.
And they feel he has a moral duty to explain himself to them.
So much so that fans protest group the Spirit of Shankly has invited Moores to address them at their next meeting at the Liverpool Olympia.
The problem is, Moores still has a position on the board at Anfield and has told close friends that although he realises he made a monumental blunder in selling to Hicks and Gillett he remains steadfastly against the washing of dirty linen in public.
In his eyes, such an act is not in the Liverpool way of doing things.
The problem is, Hicks would like nothing better than to remove Moores and chief executive Rick Parry from the board and unless DIC wins the day that is exactly what is likely to happen in the near future.
The only thing that has stopped this from happening already is the presence of Gillett and given the fact that, one way or another, he is not likely to be around for much longer, the positions of Moores and Parry are under major threat.
There is so much politics going on behind the scenes at Anfield that it is sometimes hard to believe that it is also home to a football club.
Marriages of convenience are being forged and the old mantra that "your enemy's enemy is your friend" may as well be the club motto.
Hicks and team manager Rafa Benitez have only one thing in common - a shared enmity of Gillett - and as such they have become the most unlikely of bed fellows recently, although even this relationship is being conducted at the safest of distances by e-mail.
Having told his manager to "shut up and get on with coaching" just a matter of months ago and having been in talks with Jurgen Klinsmann about the possibility of replacing Benitez, it takes some leap of faith and imagination to believe that Hicks has all of a sudden become the Spaniard's number one fan.
This is the backdrop against which today's news of a formal offer from DIC has been made.
Liverpool Football Club is in chaos and the only way it will be resolved is if the ownership issue is tackled once and for all.
The open secret has now been confirmed. Which way the situation now plays out will determine the future of Liverpool Football Club for years to come.

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