Dubai International Capital today pulled out of their proposed £450million takeover of Liverpool.
The shock decision came after a Liverpool board meeting last night formally delayed ratifying acceptance of the bid.
Liverpool, under chairman David Moores, opted to take more time to consider a second bid by George Gillett, the owner of Montreal Canadiens ice hockey team.
That offer would give shareholders more for their holdings. Moores, who owns 51.6per cent of the club, would get £8m more from the Gillett deal.
Gillett has already carried out due diligence - the process of investigation by potential investors -so the way is now open for him to make his offer for the club.
That could come at the weekend or next week but it would cast doubts over the funding of the club's proposed new stadium in Stanley Park.
There had been fears that Gillett wanted to re-open the debate over a shared ground with Everton -something the board and fans do not want.
But it is also clear that Gillett has made a serious sales pitch over the last few days, and it is believed that he has made assurances that a ground-share is not on his agenda.
The failure of Liverpool's board to act decisively on Tuesday at their London Docklands hotel left DIC, the investment arm of the Dubai government, with little option.
Sameer Al Ansari, executive chairman and chief executive officer of DIC, said: 'We are very disappointed to be making this announcement. DIC is a serious investor with considerable resources at its disposal.
'At the same time, we are supporters - of the game and of the club. Liverpool's investment requirements have been well publicised, and after a huge amount of work, we proposed a deal that would provide the club with the funds it needs both on and off the pitch.
'We were also prepared to offer shareholders a significant premium on the market price of the shares. However, we will not overpay for assets.
'Liverpool is the most successful football club in English football history. It exists to win things for its supporters. It deserves to be in the hands of people who support it, who understand its history and legend and who share the enthusiasm and passion of its fans.
'As businessmen, we move on. As fans, we hope that the new owners would share the same vision as we had for LFC and, of course, in realising the new stadium that is so badly needed, to ensure the club can continue to compete at the highest level in the Premiership and Europe.
'I am sure I will be back at Anfield with my family soon to support my team as I have done in the last 30-plus years. In the meantime, I wish the manager, the players and everyone connected with the club the best of fortune for the challenges ahead and will make sure that I am there the day they lift the Premiership trophy.'
The Liverpool board's lack of a decisive move surprised DIC, who have completed due diligence and wanted to make their formal bid via the Stock Exchange for Moores' shareholding early next week.
They believed that Moores was in favour of a bid that would have given him £80m at £4,500 a share.
Gillett's original offer was rejected before Christmas, but last week he submitted a new offer by letter to Moores which in effect upped the bid to give Moores £88m for his holding.
It is believed other board members - including representatives from Granada who own 10 per cent of the club - also wanted to think again about Gillett's terms.
A DIC source said: 'We have worked very hard over a long period with Liverpool to come up with the best possible offer for shareholders and for the long term future of the club.
'Our deal was not just about buying some shares. It was about financing the stadium, getting the stadium built and making money available for players.'
Whether Moores had a change of heart is uncertain, but DIC believed that he supported their bid because it took into account the plans drawn up for the regeneration of the Anfield area.
DIC were expected to have leading officials at Anfield on Saturday for the Mersey derby with Everton, where the deal would have been confirmed. Now it is likely that Gillett's people will be there instead.
Only last week Liverpool sources talked of concluding a deal with DIC 'within weeks'; that Gillett's own legally-allowed due diligence 'didn't really matter,' and that the club 'would continue to work with DIC.'
In the end, with Moores holding the majority of shares, it is only his decision that will decide the future of the club. Liverpool fans will await that now with interest.