Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

The ongoing drama of the American owners of English Premier League soccer clubs is starting to resemble a daily soap opera.

Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton told potential bidders to make an offer for the club by Aug. 13 and manager Martin O’Neill has walked out on Randy Lerner at Aston Villa.

Broughton, who was brought in to run and try to sell the club when Barclays Bank effectively took financial control, is believed to have five suitors lined up for Liverpool. But it remains to be seen how many will actually bid.

Yahya Kirdi, a Syrian footballer-turned-businessman, looks to be in pole position to give Liverpool a sheik-up, as reports suggest he can have the money together in time to make an offer before Broughton’s deadline. His backers are believed to be a group of businessmen from the Emirate state of Sharjah.

It’s not clear if Kenny Huang – who may or may not have the backing of the investment wing of the Chinese government – American private equity fund Rhone Group, the Al-Kharafi family from Kuwait or Indian billionaire Subrata Roy will also show they have financially sound bids.

Rhone has already offered £100 million for a 25 percent stake in Liverpool, valuing the business at £400 million. That wouldn’t be enough to cover the £219 million that American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett paid for the club in 2005 and the £257 million it owes Royal Bank Of Scotland.

Hicks, who owns the Dallas Stars hockey team, has already been forced to sell one of his sports businesses. Two weeks ago his Texas Rangers baseball team was sold at auction for $600 million, three months after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Broughton, Barclays Bank, new first team coach Roy Hodgson, and all Liverpool fans will be keen for a deal to go through before Aug. 31, which is the deadline for buying and selling players.

Former Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez was believed to be at odds with the club over the size of the transfer kitty, and that may be why O’Neill has quit at Villa.

News of his walkout broke Aug. 10, leaving Lerner – who owns American football team the Cleveland Browns – without a first team coach, only three days before the start of the new season.

Lerner is believed to have immediately flown to England to start the hunt for O’Neill’s successor, with many papers and major bookmakers putting up U.S. national soccer team manager Bob Bradley as one of the most likely candidates.