Hope returns to Liverpool under new owners

The long and bitter fight for ownership of Liverpool is over, with the club now in the hands of a new set of American owners and returning to Premier League action this weekend with hopes of a much-needed upturn in fortunes.

By (AP)

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Published: Sat 16 Oct 2010, 6:41 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:35 AM

Former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. on Friday lost their legal fight to hang onto the club, which was sold against their wishes by the club’s other directors to New England Sports Ventures - the group which owns baseball’s Boston Red Sox.

While the new owners come in without the promises of their predecessors, their arrival was largely welcomed by the club’s fans, who were pleased to be rid of the massive debts which Hicks and Gillett had saddled the club with, and were dreaming of a return to the club’s fading glory days.

There will be no war chest for manager Roy Hodgson to spend in the January transfer window, and no promises of a replacement for the historic but relatively small Anfield ground.

‘We’re not going to have a lot to say,’ Henry said. ‘We are going to do a lot of listening. We have a lot to learn. Our actions will hopefully speak for words.’

Henry did, however, insist that the 300 million pound ($476 million) transaction will wipe out the club’s crippling debts and was not funded through the type of leveraged takeover that ultimately suffocated Liverpool’s ability to invest in the squad.

‘The most important thing is that NESV have cleared us of all the debts which, frankly, shouldn’t have been on the club in the first place,’ Liverpool managing director Christian Purslow said. ‘All that huge amount of money that our fans spend supporting our team, coming to games and all the other activities is now available for what it should be available for, to invest.’

The 200 million-pound acquisition debt ($317 million) has been eliminated and the cost of the servicing the club’s debt has been cut from between 25 and 30 million pounds a year to between two and three million pounds.

Having feared for the club’s existence, Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson expects to have cash to spend in the January transfer.

‘In future we can invest in players in a different way to what has happened in the last transfer window,’ Hodgson said. ‘Then money was in short supply and we weren’t even certain there would be any money to spend or even if the club would be there.

‘The mere fact the debts are wiped off immediately puts us into a different financial position.’

Liverpool went to the High Court in London twice this week to win approval for the sale over the objections of Hicks and Gillett, who claimed NESV’s winning bid undervalued the 18-time English champions.

The sale finally went through after Hicks and Gillett withdrew the temporary restraining order blocking the sale they had obtained in a Texas court.

But Hicks and Gillett aren’t going without a fight, threatening to drag the club through further court battles despite dropping a $1.6 billion damages claim in Dallas.

The duo, who feuded for much of their time at Anfield, claimed the takeover was ‘illegal’ and an ‘extraordinary swindle,’ adding that part-nationalized Royal Bank of Scotland refused to allow them to repay Liverpool’s debts to prevent the sale.

‘This was a conspiracy of the British Establishment - Royal Bank of Scotland - our chairman (Broughton) and our highly compensated employees,’ Hicks told The Associated Press.

Attorneys for Hicks and Gillett said they want a chance to tell their side of the saga to an English court.

They had been threatened with jail if they didn’t comply by late Friday to halt the court action in Texas blocking the sale.

‘An order that requires American citizens not to go to court is unusual to say the least,’ said Tom Melsheimer, a Dallas-based attorney for Hicks and Gillett. ‘We believe that when the English court has had the opportunity to hear all the facts, that order will be revisited in a significant way.’

RBS forced Hicks and Gillett to put the club up for sale in April as they failed to repay their debts.

‘I don’t think even the most long-standing Liverpool fan would think that just because you don’t like somebody living down the street, that you can kick them out of their home and force them to take less than fair compensation for their home,’ Melsheimer said. ‘I don’t think anyone can possibly think that was a fair and just situation, and that’s really what happened over there.

‘There’s so much emotion and vitriol packed into this national icon of English culture that it’s been hard to get a fair shake, and we look forward to getting just that.’

RBS said that any further claims against the bank will be ‘vigorously opposed.’

Attention for Liverpool now shifts to Sunday’s Merseyside derby against Everton when Hodgson’s side will be trying to notch a second Premier League win for the season and climb out of the ignominous position in the relegation zone.

But Henry is waiting until Liverpool hosts Blackburn on Oct. 24 to watch the team.

‘It’s better for our first experience with the supporters to be at home,’ he said. ‘We are here to win.’

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