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Liverpool's coowner Tom Hicks on lookout for new investor

17 Sep 2009 09:00:49

Liverpool's coowner Tom Hicks on lookout for new investor

In the aftermath of the announcement of the £80 million, four-year deal with Standard Chartered bank, Hicks reiterated his and partner George Gillett’s “commitment” to reducing the club’s debt level, incurred during the Americans’ takeover and subsequent refinancing of their £350m loans, and his desire to generate “strong cashflow” to make Liverpool “competitive” on the pitch. "You have to look at 'cash flow' rather than accounting,” he said. “And we intend to operate Liverpool where it has a very strong positive cash flow, so we have the resources to be as competitive as possible on the pitch. That's our commitment. We had strong, positive cash flows last year. Our debt levels are at a very comfortable level, and we are going to continue bringing it down. "Our goal is to have less debt than any of the top clubs, and that's a commitment we have made and will continue to make." Yet despite that statement, sources in the City have revealed he has tasked Merrill Lynch, the recently-acquired investment arm of Bank of America, with selling shares worth a total of 25 per cent. It is not yet known whether they would come from his holding, that of his partner, the issuing of new shares or a combination of the three. It is thought Hicks has set an asking price of around £100m for a minority stake in the club. Previous attempts to secure outside investment, which would provide Liverpool with the capital to proceed with their long-mooted, and recently abandoned, plans to build a new stadium on Stanley Park, have failed, with several parties believed to be unwilling to pay a premium to work with Hicks and Gillett. Both partners have consistently outlined their long-term ambitions for the club, a stance at odds with a number of attempts, all fruitless, in recent years to offload all, or part, of their stakes, Hicks through Merrill Lynch and Gillett through Rothschilds. Despite their proselytising over the club’s financial future after their latest refinancing, in July, it has been suggested that their failure to provide adequate transfer funds for Benitez over the summer, combined with the announcement of the new sponsorship deal, which would only serve as an added incentive to investors, indicate a renewed willingness to sell. Should Hicks fail to find minority investment – a policy he has also pursued with his sports interest in the United States since the collapse of the global financial market – or decide that he does not wish to cede any control, the reports highlight once again the uncertainty over the club’s future which has surrounded Anfield since Hicks and Gillett bought the club in 2007. The pair have battled with each other, Benitez and the fans in their two and a half years at the club, with supporters’ groups launching a leaflet campaign at recent games to highlight the flaws of their tenure.


Telegraph

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