Gillett cools talk of Saudi buy-out of Liverpool
Liverpool co-owner George Gillett has moved to play down speculation that a buy-out of the Premier League club is imminent though a spokesman for a Saudi investment vehicle has confirmed a qualified interest in buying a stake in the club.
Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah al-Saud's attendance of Liverpool's 6-1 win over Hull at Anfield on Saturday triggered speculation that his F6 investment vehicle had been given the go-ahead to carry out exclusive due diligence with a view to buying into the club.
However, has Gillett insisted the future ownership of the club was not on the agenda at the meeting while F6 director Barry Didato confirmed the due diligence process taking place relates to other commercial opportunities and "does not involve the possibility of an immediate investment in Liverpool", with any possible transaction being "several months away".
Gillett told the Press Association: "We had a marvellous meeting with them on Saturday and they were impressed with the club, but the academies in Saudi Arabia and North Africa and their possible involvement in NASCAR-type racing in the Middle East were the only items on the agenda. We have entered into a period of exclusive discussions regarding the possibility of introducing NASCAR-type racing to the Middle East, but the memorandum of understanding does not cover anything else."
Gillett and co-owner Tom Hicks had confirmed on Tuesday that they had "retained Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Rothschild to evaluate the possibility of new investors injecting equity into Liverpool FC". The joint statement added: "The process is at an early stage, there is no agreement with any party and reports to the contrary are wholly inaccurate."
Didato, F6's director of strategic investment said that the agreement signed at the weekend focused on the creation of football academies in Saudi Arabia and North Africa as well as an opportunity in stock car racing, while the prospects of a possible investment in Liverpool lagged behind the first two projects as a "distant third".
He said: "As far as investment in Liverpool is concerned, that would be a long way off. A lot of people have jumped the gun and any possible investment would be several months away. The agreement signed (at the weekend) leaves the door open for it (possible future investment in Liverpool), but that was certainly not the focus of it."
Didato added that no talks have been staged between F6 and Hicks, who, like Gillett, owns 50% of Liverpool. "George has a partner there and has his own issues to work through," Didato added. "Mr Hicks will also have his own issues and we are not sure what he wants to do. Another issue is the club's debt (of around £245million). Prince Faisal will not put forward investment capital to just clean up a balance sheet. He would only want to use money to take the club forward. It would be long-term money."
According to Didato, Prince Faisal would have an open mind regarding the ultimate stake he could hold in the club. "His Highness is open to anything and is open to being a minority shareholder, but he has tremendous favourability towards the brand and institution of Liverpool. His Highness would need to be invited by George and it would have to be at the right time for George. There would need to be a shared vision between all of the parties."
Gillett recently agreed to sell the Montreal Canadiens National Hockey League ice hockey team for a reported $575m, but he insisted that transaction had nothing to do with any developments regarding the rest of his sporting portfolio, which includes the Richard Petty Motorsports NASCAR team as well as Liverpool.