Kuwaitis deny Liverpool interest
Kharafi Group refute suggestions they are set to become Liverpool's new owners.
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2009 18:16 GMT

George Gillett, left, and Tom Hicks have endured a torrid time [GALLO/GETTY]
A Kuwaiti business group has denied reports that it is in talks to buy English Premier League club Liverpool from its debt laden American owners.

Nasser Al-Kharafi, the co-owner of The Kharafi Group, was reported to have met with Liverpool officials this week, fueling speculation that he was ready to buyout the American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr.

But Loay al-Kharafi, the group's vice chairman, said on Friday there were no negotiations at all about buying all or part of the club, insisting, "There were no talks with Liverpool.''

The reports emerged as a six-month countdown begins for Hicks and Gillett Jr. to refinance a bank loan of some $339 million used to purchase the club.

Representatives of Hicks and Gillett, who bought Liverpool for around $400 million in March 2007, were also reported to have held discussions last July with Nasser Al-Kharafi, though nothing came of the talks.

The Kuwaiti construction and restaurant tycoon was ranked by Forbes magazine in 2008 as the 46th richest man in the world, with an estimated fortune of $14 billion.

Benitez football focused

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said on Friday he had no knowledge of the reported developments and made it clear he was concentrating solely on football matters.

"The atmosphere here inside the training ground is fine, we do not have problems here,'' Benitez said.

"The players are working together, and there are no problems between them.

 George Gillett, left, and Tom Hicks have deadlines to meet [GALLO/GETTY]
"It will be difficult against Everton (on Sunday), so we must focus on only what happens on the pitch ... I am only thinking as far as the next game.''

Liverpool's American owners have been under pressure from fans since rejecting a $900 million takeover bid by the Dubai International Capital group last March and then shelving plans to replace Anfield due to the economic downturn.

Hicks had blocked Gillett's moves to sell his 50 percent share to DIC as the pair feuded over future plans for the club.

Work on a new ground in the adjacent Stanley Park was halted and part of the building site reclaimed as a car park for the existing stadium, which lacks the facilities or capacity to exploit the global interest in the 18-time English champions.

'Fit and proper' owners

A Liverpool supporters group which met Gillett in September regretted the timing of the speculation.

"We would welcome a sale of LFC to `fit and proper' owners, true custodians who would look after the values and traditions of our club, and treat it with the respect it deserves,'' said James McKenna of the Spirit Of Shankly group.

But he added, "We need to be sure that any new owners do not place us in the same situation as the current ones.

"January should be a time spent on concluding transfer signings, not having to look into the distance for new owners to save us from the present ones.''

Gillett also owns the NHL Montreal Canadiens, while while Hicks owns the baseball Texas Rangers and NHL Dallas Stars.

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