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Reds owners seek investors
Liverpool owners announce they are looking for outside investment.
Last Modified: 29 Sep 2009 20:47 GMT

George Gillett and Tom Hicks are seeking an investor to cover club debts [GALLO/GETTY]
Liverpool's co-owners George Gillett Jr. and Tom Hicks said that they have asked two banks to find outside investment after Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah al-Saud publicised his attempts to buy into the English Premier League club.

The Saudi prince said he has been working on a deal to buy all or part of the club for four months on behalf of Swiss investors and two unnamed banks.

Liverpool's owners need to find an investor to help reduce the club's $390 million debt and fund a new 60,000-seat stadium, on which construction was halted in August 2008 because of a global economic downturn.

"The owners have jointly retained Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Rothschild to evaluate the possibility of new investors injecting equity into LFC,'' Hicks and Gillett said in a statement.

"However, the process is at an early stage, there is no agreement with any party.''

'Exclusivity deal'

But sports investment firm F6, which is chaired by Prince Faisal, said that it signed an exclusivity deal at Anfield on Saturday with Gillett to begin the process of examining Liverpool's accounts.

The one aspect of the deal made public by both the prince and Gillett, who is also the majority owner of Nascar team Richard Petty Motorsports, is the intention to explore building football academies and rolling out Nascar in the Middle East.

The prince though is keen on buying into 18-time English champions Liverpool.

"We have reached an advanced step with them in this deal,'' the prince told Alarabiya TV in Arabic on Monday night.

"For us it's not just about how much shares we acquired 30, 40 or even 50 percent, what's more important for us is the setting up of academies...

"This deal which was the result of long and hard work by a whole team of experts and which also culminated a month ago in signing deals with investors involved in sports and services as well as legal.

"All these are part of the team that will work with Liverpool and negotiate to acquire a certain portion of shares.''

According to F6, the prince is only in talks with Gillett over buying all or part of his 50 percent-stake.

But Hicks is looking to raise around $160 million from investors in return for a 25 percent stake in Liverpool, a person familiar with the situation said on condition of anonymity because the club is not publicly discussing the issue.

Neither Gillett nor Hicks can sell any of their equal stakes without the other's approval - a clause that inflamed tensions between the pair when Gillett's attempts to sell to a Dubai consortium were blocked by Hicks in early 2008.

United

Hicks maintained earlier this month that he and Gillett are now united, but the prince still believes divisions exist.

"It's clear to everyone that there is a kind of misunderstanding between Gillett and Hicks, but we won’t go into that,'' the prince said.

"...Liverpool despite its massive history is going through a tough period at the moment like many other clubs and we want to add something to it"

Prince Faisal

"We are not there to pacify between them but as Saudi investors ... Liverpool despite its massive history is going through a tough period at the moment like many other clubs and we want to add something to it.''

Prince Faisal was asked by the Dubai-based channel how he was capable of funding the acquisition.

"You don't need billions to invest, you have to know how to do the deal and how to work with other investors such as banks and you represent them to buy this share,'' he said.

"F6 is an investment company with many investors in sports and other things and if the deal is sealed it will be under its banner and we will manage it on behalf of our investors in Switzerland and two more banks. We have been working on the deal for 4 months.''

Gillett recently sold the Montreal Canadiens, the Gillett Entertainment Centre and the Bell Centre back to the Molson family for a reported $580 million.

Hicks, who owns the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars, and Gillett bought Liverpool in 2007 for nearly $290 million, taking on about $73.8 million in liabilities. They have been criticised by fans for burdening the club with so much debt and while failing to build a new stadium.

Source:
Agencies
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