By Nick Harris
13 October 2010
The ownership battle for control of Liverpool is at an end after Mr Justice Floyd ruled in the High Court this morning that the board led by Martin Broughton was within its rights to sell the club last week. Tom Hicks and George Gillett were denied an immediate right by Mr Justice Floyd to appeal, calling an appeal “inappropriate”, although a Court of Appeal application remains possible. Hicks and Gillett must also pay costs.
The agreed sale of Liverpool to New England Sports Ventures (video here, you may get a US Army ad first on first viewing) in a deal worth £300m should now move ahead in the coming days. Liverpool’s board will meet by 8pm this evening to ratify that deal.
A statement on Liverpool’s website says: “We are delighted that the court has clarified the issue of board composition and has removed the uncertainty around the sale process. We will now be consulting with our lawyers and planning for a board meeting tonight. A further statement will be made in due course.”
The court verdict enshrines the right for Martin Broughton, Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre to be members of that board, and with that three-man “independent” majority, they will be able to vote in favour of whichever bidder they prefer, namely NESV.
Hicks and Gillett will be allowed to “attend” the board meeting via teleconference; it isn’t known yet if they will. What is certain is they won’t be able to stop “the three” guaranteeing a vote in favour of NESV.
The ill-fated – latterly hated – reign at Anfield of Hicks and Gillett is over. They will leave with losses of more than £100m from their three-year ownership of the club.
The technical details of RBS’s victory lie in the Judge effectively backing in the interim injunction gained by RBS late last week against Hicks and Gillett, preventing them from altering the make-up of the board to stop the sale. Hicks had tried to sack Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre and appoint two Hicks allies (one of them his son, Mack) instead.
But the judgement this morning ruled the attempted board changes were illegal.
Mr Justice Floyd said: “The owners do not have an absolute right to veto a sale.”
A post-verdict Q&A with Martin Broughton is now at this link
A post-verdict statement from Peter Lim is now at this link
NESV have also issued at statement saying: “NESV welcomes today’s High Court judgment, which is a huge step forward for Liverpool FC. NESV has a binding agreement in place with the Board of Liverpool FC and we are looking forward to concluding the deal. We are ready to move quickly and help create the stability and certainty which the Club needs at this time. It is time to return the focus to the Club itself and performances on the pitch.”
A statement from RBS said: “Today’s judgment vindicates the actions RBS has taken to ensure that decisions concerning the future of Liverpool Football Club are made by a properly constituted Board acting in the Club’s best interests. RBS has every confidence that having been put on a proper footing, the Board will now reach appropriate decisions regarding the next steps.”