Hicks' astonishing argument against selling Liverpool to NESV perfectly sums up why he is so despised by fans
If anything proves the “breathtaking arrogance” of which Tom Hicks was accused in court this week, then it was contained in the case he presented.
The co-owner tried to block Liverpool’s sale to New England Sports Ventures on the grounds it would damage the club.
Clearly, the irony of that was not lost on Mr Justice Floyd, who suggested – with a ruling ultimately so emphatic against Hicks and his business partner George Gillett – he could not quite believe the cheek of the man.
Hundreds of fans chanting outside the High Court in London told its own story of how damaging the Americans’ reign has been and how despised they have become.
They too, can not quite believe the cheek of a man who has brought Liverpool to its knees and the verge of an administration that would bring a nine-point penalty.
Yet such blind pursuit of profit has been the hallmark of the reign of the two leveraged buy-out merchants, who have presented a threat not just to the future of Liverpool Football Club, but to the future of the very sport itself.
English football is mired in debt despite enjoying the most prosperous period in its history, and it is no coincidence the latter attracts venture capitalists who create the former.
Hicks and Gillett are the worst example of that breed. Had they been able to get away with using Liverpool’s money to buy the club with no risk to themselves, then no club would be safe.
Their case in the High Court was exposed as a tissue of half truths and wild claims, and their reign at Anfield followed a similar vein. They lied when they said there would a spade in the ground on a new stadium within 60 days, and they lied when they said there would be no acquisition debt on the club. At the last count, it was somewhere approaching £237million.
Even at the end, they could not resist one last big whopper. They wanted to halt a £300m sale to NESV, not because they felt they could get more money elsewhere, but because the club would get more elsewhere. How selfless of them.
It begs the question of how they intended to find a better offer when Barclays Capital and chairman Martin Broughton spoke to 137 different parties to try to sell the club?
Only two came through with a credible proposal. Broughton, Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre – the majority of the Anfield board – decided NESV, who have an admirable track record as owners of the Boston Red Sox, presented the best opportunity for the football club, if not necessarily for Hicks and Gillett.
Mr Justice Floyd agreed. “The potential damage of granting an injunction [to Hicks] would be substantial,” he said in his judgement. “The owners do not have an absolute right to veto a sale and I am not prepared to grant relief, the effect of which would be to stop the sale and purchase agreement [with NESV] from going ahead.
“There is no doubt the current position of the club is unsatisfactory and the continuing uncertainty is damaging to it and the underlying value of the asset that they are seeking to sell.”
“Well done Ian, Martin & Christian,” Henry posted on Twitter after the ruling. “Well done RBS. Well done supporters.”
Liverpool’s board reconvened last night to confirm the sale to NESV, and finally rid the club of their appalling owners. Yet with the sale come more problems.
After three years of disaster and heartache, deceit and debt, there will be many fans who will find it hard to swap one set of American capitalists for another, no matter how impressive the new owners appear on paper.
The goodwill offered to Broughton, Purslow and Ayre on the steps of the High Court yesterday, when jubilant fans chanted the names of the trio for their audacious coup in deposing Hicks and Gillett, will vanish if the Red Sox owners prove equally “slippery”, as Hicks was described.
NESV will have some convincing to do, and will not have much time to do it. They have a plan though, which will be based around their record in Boston, where an under-performing, world-famous club that carried many echoes of Liverpool’s current experience, recaptured former glory.