A year after buying Premier League club Liverpool, American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. could be preparing to sell.
|George Gillett, left, and Tom Hicks: Hugely unpopular |
signings at Liverpool [GALLO/GETTY]
Hicks and Gillett have granted Dubai International Capital permission to examine the club's accounts before a possible takeover bid next month, a leading British newspaper reported.
Gillett and Hicks bought Liverpool for $431 million in March 2007, which included an agreement to pay off about $89 million of club debt and a pledge to build and finance a 60,000-seat stadium.
The Times of London said Liverpool was now valued at more than $788 million taking into account the club's increased debts.
Gillett and Hicks refinanced their Liverpool deal with a $690 million package from two banks on January 25.
The Times said Hicks held talks with DIC officials in Dubai and in London last week, with a final deal expected within weeks.
DIC, the private-equity investment arm of the Dubai government, declined to comment. The company had also been in the running to buy Liverpool last year.
Fans have been turning against the American owners, who have been in a power struggle with popular manager Rafa Benitez over player transfers.
Hicks acknowledged he had sought out Juergen Klinsmann as a possible replacement in November.
Fans are also unhappy that the club has been taken into debt by Gillett and Hicks, who are reportedly in disagreement among themselves about the future of the club.
Gillett, who owns 50 percent of Liverpool, has taken a back seat in recent months, along with his son Foster Gillett, who is a director.
Instead, Hicks has been the main spokesman for the two.
His son, Tom Hicks Jr., who is also a director, was reportedly spat at and doused with beer when he went to a pub near Anfield stadium on Saturday after Liverpool's 3-2 win over Middlesbrough in the Premier League.
The Times reported that Gillett will be happy to sell his stake, but Hicks will retain some of his shares, keeping a place on the board.
Hicks also owns baseball's Texas Rangers and the NHL's Dallas Stars; Gillett owns the Montreal Canadiens.
There's also an outside chance of Liverpool fans taking over the club.
A member-share scheme was launched on January 31 with the aim of raising around $995 million to oust the Americans and fund a new stadium.
Share Liverpool FC said on its website it had more than 18,000 pledges to get involved and was raising funds to set up a proper body to launch a takeover bid.
In the meantime, Liverpool has been eliminated early in both of England's cup competitions and is 17 points behind Premier League leader Arsenal, in fifth place.
The club is in good shape in the Champions League, however, holding a 2-0 lead over Inter Milan in the second round going into the return leg in Milan on March 11.