Hicks Steps In To Scoop The Pool

Dallas businessman Thomas Hicks has become the third American sports tycoon to buy into English soccer with a successful bid for Liverpool FC.

The 60-year-old owner of major league baseball’s Texas Rangers and the Dallas Stars ice hockey franchise is working in cahoots with George Gillett Jr., whose first approach for the 2005 European club champions was topped by the rulers of Dubai.

An improved bid with Hicks’ backing then had Liverpool chairman David Moores and his board reconsidering the offer from Dubai International Capital (DIC), the Emirate’s rulers’ investment business. Claiming they’d been led to believe it was a done deal, that was enough to make the sheiks pull out.

The Hicks-Gillett deal, which is estimated to be worth £470 million, breaks down at about £170 million for the club, with the rest going toward a new stadium at Stanley Park and funding for manager Rafa Benitez to strengthen the playing squad.

Liverpool is the third English Premiership club to fall into U.S. ownership, following Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer’s controversial £812 million takeover of Manchester United and Cleveland Browns chief Randy Lerner’s £62 million purchase of Aston Villa.

The Liverpool deal didn’t have the universal approval of the club’s supporters. Most of those who called radio phone-ins said they felt the club should have honoured any verbal agreements with the Arabs and many speculated that DIC’s deal would have been better for the club.

They were also concerned that Hicks’ HM Capital Partners specialises in buying big companies with leveraged debt, the same method Glazer used to buy United.

Although it has since come out that the £170 million purchase of the club isn’t being funded that way, there are plans to borrow the money needed to build the new stadium. Some Liverpool fans are worried that the club may be the security for that money.

Others were bothered about him giving financial support to George W. Bush, when the U.S. president ran for governor of Texas and later the White House.

The £88 million Moores got for his 51.6 percent of the club means Hicks has made him a millionaire several times over, just as he did for Bush when paying him £7.6 million for his stake in Texas Rangers in 1999.

Hicks’ sports ventures have met with mixed success. The national hockey league’s Dallas Stars won The Stanley Cup three years after he bought the team, but his Texas Rangers have come up short of what he paid for them.

The U.K.’s The Daily Telegraph quoted Dallas Morning News sports writer Tim Cowlishaw saying, "He doesn’t know anything about soccer so I am sure he will be viewing it as an investment."