Liverpool Changes Hands

Liverpool co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett were forced to withdraw their restraining order blocking the sale of the soccer club Oct. 15, clearing the way for New England Sports Ventures to take control.

They were complying with an order made a day earlier in the English High Court. Failure to comply would have made them in contempt of the High Court, which could result in a prison sentence, although it’s doubtful if the English court could have enforced the punishment on two U.S.-based multimillionaires.

“We’re making sure we’re following the rules,” Hicks told Sky News, likely aware that he may need to return to London’s High Court to lodge his claim for damages against the club directors and Royal Bank Of Scotland.

He said the NESC deal was “an organised conspiracy” and “an epic swindle” and told Sky the sale of the club isn’t the end of the matter.

During the previous four days, the sale of Liverpool was thrashed out on both sides of the Atlantic, with the action alternating between the English court and the 160th Judicial Court in Dallas, Texas.

It began in the UK Oct. 12, when RBS sought a judgment that club chairman Martin Broughton was within his rights to sell the club to the owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball team.

The club owes the bank £237 million and the loan fell due for repayment Oct. 15. Hicks and Gillett acknowledged the club needed to be sold but argued that there could be better deals on the table.

Justice Christopher Floyd ruled Oct. 13 that Hicks and Gillett had broken written undertakings when trying to block the sale. They sacked two board members who were in favour of the NESV deal and replaced them with two who would vote against it. Justice Floyd told them they were in no legal position to stop the deal.

The Americans responded by moving the legal action to Dallas and on Oct. 14 won a restraining order to delay the sale, only for Justice Floyd to tell them that they must return to the U.S. court the following day and withdraw their action.

During the Sky interview, Hicks defended he and his partner’s 30-month stay at Liverpool, pointing out that in the last two years only two English Premier League teams – Manchester City and Chelsea – have spent more on bringing in new players.

He said he felt the fans were unfair to blame the owners for the poor performances of the players that former manager Rafa Benitez acquired.

The loss of Liverpool may at least temporarily signal the end of Hicks’ active involvement in sports team ownership. In May his Texas Rangers Major League Baseball team filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. At the beginning of August it was sold by bankruptcy auction.

The problems with Texas Rangers and Liverpool have also seen him put his remaining pro sports franchise – the Dallas Stars ice hockey team – up for sale.

NESV chiefs John W. Henry and Tom Werner were in Liverpool Oct. 17, where they saw their new team lose the local derby against Everton 2-0.

Liverpool is now second from bottom of the English Premier League, winning only one of its first eight games.