So the day that many have been waiting for some time has arrived. The Americans have finally said they intend to sell. In keeping with their approach since they took over the club they are using other sources to do their own business. British Airways Chairman Martin Broughton has been appointed to oversee the sale. Barclays Capital will lead the hunt for new owners. More expense to the club but in this case, hopefully, it will be worth it?
Why now at this time? I guess the impending Royal Bank of Scotland deadline, meaning Hicks and Gillett would have to reduce our debt by £100m, was a big factor? Presumably they weren’t prepared to get into bed with another investor such as Rhone and reduce their share holding? Equally it seems they weren’t prepared to put up their own cash or perhaps they have done the maths and think if they cut and run now they will leave with a profit?
The latter is not a surprise anyone who thought Hicks and Gillett would be in it for the long term, or for the love of football, was seriously deluded. The new stadium was the key factor to their involvement in Liverpool? Get the crowds in, get some naming rights and beef up the other commercials and the money would roll in. Then, when the value of the club has increased, sell at a big profit. This is precisely what they are doing now although perhaps earlier than they anticipated?
However, before I go on let me say this. I don’t think this is a day for celebration. Sure we should be glad to see the back of the Yanks and we should also be proud that the sustained campaign of opposition, from groups such as the Spirit of Shankly, to their grubby, classless little tenure appears to have paid dividends. Quite what effect it had compared with the financial difficulties they faced only the Americans can say. However, I suspect/would love to think it was a major irritation and had some bearing. Future owners will be more conscious about their approach and the need to keep the fans happy?
Anyway I digress, why isn’t this a day for celebration? Well despite the prospect of seeing Hicks and Gillett go, they will surely be flying off across the Atlantic with considerably more in the way of wonga than when the first slunk into town. Although they’ve had their ears burnt by the fans my guess is that they will still come out of it financially smelling of roses. Not bad for borrowing money against the club, putting nothing of your own resources into it and then using future earnings to pay off the interest! Why I am sitting here writing this if it is that easy?
It short Liverpool FC has been well and truly had by these dodgy, freeloading parasites. It credits no one inside the club that this day has arrived. Those who decided to go with the Americans in the first place, rather than consider other options, should if they had any concerns about the future of the club, forever be asking how they have allowed themselves to be hoodwinked in this way. Clearly due diligence is a process which was only given lip service in this case?
However, I admit it is easy to be smug, wise and trot out the stuff that I’ve just written with the benefit of hindsight. The only solution for the club is to learn from this and, going forward, to make sure it doesn’t occur again and that we get new owners who are willing to invest heavily in the team and the stadium. That is what most want but today’s statements simply didn’t address the issues I suspect many fans feel passionate about. Here is an extract….
“…..the Club’s revenues have increased by 55%; Commercial revenues have increased by 83%; Operating profit (before player trading and exceptionals..) has increased by 60%……”
Fantastic! I bet that’s great comfort to the fans as they see the club going through yet another season without the Championship. No one expects investors to invest heavily and then not enjoy the benefits. Equally no one should expect the club to run as an indulgence, even Abramovich has reined this in. Sensible business methods should be used, however there is a balance to be struck, the overiding issue should be success on the pitch. Liverpool FC business should primarily be on the back pages?
So where does this leave us? Who knows I suspect this the beginning of a significant period in the history of the club which means it is vitally important that those who make the decision on the new owners get it right this time.
Finally I’ll leave you with part of the statement Hicks and Gillett made
“Owning Liverpool Football Club over these past three years has been a rewarding and exciting experience for us and our families. Having grown the club this far we have now decided together to look to sell the club to owners committed to take the club through its next level of growth and development.”
Deluded right until the very end. Here’s to the future and saying “hurry up guys, take your ill gotten gains and close the door behind you”.