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Mar 5, 2009

Reds' takeover negotiations going ''really badly''

Efforts by Tom Hicks and George Gillett to sell Liverpool to a Kuwaiti investment consortium have stalled over their refusal to revise the £500m valuation of the club.

Negotiations with Liverpool's American co-owners are ''going really badly,'' according to Abdulla Al-Sager, one of the investors in the consortium.

Rafed Al-Kharafi and Al-Sager were guests of the club for their 2-0 home win over Chelsea last month. The Al-Kharafi family, who are one of the wealthiest in Kuwait thanks to their oil interests, are understood to head the investment consortium.

But despite the Kuwaiti consortium's interest, Al-Sager revealed in an interview with Bloomberg that ''things are going really badly, because they are asking for too much. I don't think anything will happen unless we get a better price.''

With Hicks and Gillett refusing to reduce their £500m asking price the consortium look set to wait until July, the deadline for the co-owners to refinance or repay a £300m loan.

With some observers contending that in the current economic climate the co-owners will struggle to agree a refinancing deal, Hicks and Gillett could be forced to sell for much lower than their current asking price.

The Kuwaiti consortium are not the only group Liverpool have approached, with exploratory talks understood to have taken place with potential investors in the US and Middle East.

The co-owners' stewardship of the club has not been smooth since their takeover in February 2007, largely due to a breakdown in relations between Hicks and Gillett, which in turn fed a fractious relationship between manager Rafa Benitez and out-going chief executive Rick Parry.

In recent months Hicks and Gillett have put their differences aside in order to facilitate a full or partial sale; Hicks is thought to be keen to remain involved in the club if Gillett can be convinced to sell his stake, a scenario the Kuwait group have said they would be open to.

Meanwhile, Ian Ayre has emerged as the lead contender to replace Parry as the club's chief executive, according to the Telegraph.

Ayre, a 45-year-old American businessman, was appointed by Hicks as Liverpool's commercial director 18 months ago. It is understood that Hicks holds Ayre in high regard, not least because he shares his view that Liverpool should be exploiting their global fanbase more aggressively than the club has done under Parry.

Last week Liverpool announced that Parry would be stepping down at the end of the season.

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