By Nick Harris
1 April 2010
Liverpool fans opposed to their club’s ownership by Tom Hicks and George Gillett have written to the Premier League urging an investigation into the duo’s historic record in business and sports club ownership, citing episodes of historic bankruptcy, prior involvement in a failed football club, and current debt to another sporting governing body in America among reasons the pair should not be deemed fit and proper persons to own Liverpool.
The Spirit of Shankly group (SoS) also wants answers to questions about the Rhone Group, a private equity firm that has offered around £100m for a 40 per cent share of Liverpool. Hicks and Gillett are searching for that sum to repay RBS bank some of the club’s £237m debts.
James McKenna, spokesperson for SoS, said: “Tom and George promised us heaven and have delivered hell. Who would have thought that three years ago we would be where we are now, [with] owners with no money, [involved in] a desperate search for investment to pay down debt, and fans having to seek and fight for answers about what is going on at their club?”
SoS has written to the Premier League to demand action and is urging other supporters to ask the League to probe Hicks’s involvement in a Brazilian club, Corinthians, which subsequently had financial problems, as well as the defaulting on hundreds of millions of dollars of loans by Hicks’ sports group in America (where the group also owes money to Major League Baseball), and previous bankruptcy proceedings in the USA against Gillett (who has a $1bn bankruptcy on his CV) and Hicks.
Hicks and Gillett arrived at Liverpool claiming they would not launch a leveraged buyout. Hicks said at the time: “This is not a takeover like the Glazer deal at Manchester United. There is no debt involved, and we believe that as custodians of this wonderful, storied club we have a duty of care to the tradition and legacies of Liverpool.”
SoS say the takeover “is in fact identical to that of the Glazers’ at Manchester United.”
Gillett said at the time of the takeover: “The shovel needs to be in the ground in the next 60 days or so [to start work on the new stadium] and we would intend to follow that. I think you’ll see the beginnings of a great big swimming pool being dug out here in Stanley Park relatively soon”.
SoS point out this was more than three years ago now, “and we are still now no nearer to a swimming pool, let alone a new stadium.”