Roy Hodgson 'delighted' by Boston bid
LONDON -- Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson is delighted the owners of the Boston Red Sox want to rescue the heavily indebted club, despite a looming court battle by the board to force the club's current owners to sell.
The $476 million bid from New England Sports Ventures has been accepted by three members of Liverpool's board ahead of an Oct. 15 deadline. By that time, the club must have repaid its debts, be taken over by main creditor Royal Bank of Scotland or seek bankruptcy protection.
"It's very positive and of course I'm delighted," Hodgson said Thursday. "It's been going on a long time and I know how hard the board have worked to set things up."
If the deal survives the legal hurdles, the ownership group led by financier John Henry and TV producer Tom Werner believes it can restore the once-proud soccer club to its former glory.
"NESV wants to create a long-term financially solid foundation for Liverpool FC and is dedicated to ensuring that the club has the resources to build for the future," Henry's group said in a statement. "Our objective is to stabilize the club and ultimately return Liverpool FC to its rightful place in English and European football."
Liverpool's current American co-owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr., said the offer by the Red Sox ownership group "dramatically undervalues" Liverpool, as the proposed sale would leave them with a loss on their investment. They are challenging the legal authority of the board to approve the takeover.
Hicks and Gillett tried to fire managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre from the board Tuesday and replace them with one of Hicks' sons and a vice president from their Texas investment company.
That came just hours before Purslow and Ayre, plus chairman Martin Broughton, agreed to the sale to the Red Sox group, while preparing a legal case to force Hicks and Gillett to sell.
Broughton insists that Hicks and Gillett previously agreed that only Broughton had the legal authority to change the board -- a fact the current owners contest.
"The board has been legally reconstituted, and the new board does not approve of this proposed transaction," Hicks and Gillett responded in a statement.
Pressure on Hicks and Gillett was growing Thursday. England's World Cup bid team indicated it would welcome a change of ownership that would lead to the redevelopment of Anfield, the club's aging stadium, or a replacement nearby for matches in 2018 if England's bid is successful.
"These latest developments would appear to bring greater stability at the club closer and therefore a greater certainty regarding either an expanded Anfield or a new stadium," England 2018 said in a statement. "That can only be positive for the England bid."
The Boston investors are pledging to wipe out all of Liverpool's debt, which currently stands at $453 million, and invest money to revitalize the team, which is languishing in the Premier League relegation zone.
Liverpool was bought for $276 million, taking on $71.1 million of liabilities. Liverpool's acquisition debt, which relates to loans from the takeover, is about $317 million, with bank charges, penalty fees and debts to other groups swelling that amount.
"This is not a good deal for the money -- the owners lose on the investment," Broughton told The Associated Press. "But it's not all bad. If the club goes into administration, which is staring us in the face next week because of the liabilities which we can't meet, the owners owe personal guarantees of $174 million.
"The sale route as opposed to administration saves them from those personal guarantees."
Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher hopes the sale is completed quickly for the good of the team, which urgently needs an upturn in fortunes.
"Everyone knows it'll be a good thing for the club," Carragher said. "We can start looking forward on the pitch and start improving results, which is what we need to do."
Bruce Buck, chairman of Premier League rival Chelsea, believes that the Red Sox ownership group should be given time by fans to prove they are different from Hicks and Gillett.
"If they are in a position to recognize the history and traditions of what they are buying then I'd say let's welcome them with open arms," Buck said. "You need to build up a relationship with the fan groups. I don't think they [Hicks and Gillett] listened to the fans."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.