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Sep 7, 2010

Liverpool board would block mortgage attempts

Liverpool's owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks attempted to refinance their loans this summer by mortgaging the club's remaining assets - the stadium, training ground, players and guaranteed TV revenues.

There are fears the American owners might attempt another refinancing deal ahead of the October 6 deadline to repay £237 million owed to Royal Bank of Scotland, plus the £60 million of additional fees run up since April.

But the rest of Liverpool's five-man board would - once again - legally block any attempt to use the players or stadium as 'assets' to raise a mortgage to pay off existing debts. Any refinancing will be opposed by the board who can outvote Hicks and Gillett 3-2, but the Americans might issue a legal challenge.

At present, the £40 million annual interest repayments come directly from club profits but ESPNsoccernet has learned that the debts are not loaded against the stadium and players.

When Hicks and Gillett tried to find a new £290 million 'mortgage' using the stadium and players as assets a few months ago, the board threw out the proposal and took legal advice to ensure that they were within their rights to do so.

With the October 6 bank deadline rapidly approaching, Hicks and Gillett stand to lose their stranglehold on Liverpool if RBS chooses to take over the club and hand it over to their asset recovery experts to sell as a distressed asset.

An RBS effective takeover of the club from the October 6 deadline would meet with Premier League approval. Liverpool have also informed the Premier League and UEFA that they have set aside financial measures to ensure that they can continue to pay the £8 million-a-month wage bill and fulfil their fixtures this season.

When asked if the club could still afford their substantial wage bill, a spokesman said: "Liverpool FC has prudent working capital facilities that allow the club to make proper provision for outgoings as and when they arise. These working capital facilities are totally satisfactory to both the Premier League and UEFA."

The annual wage bill in the 2008-09 accounts was £90.8 million and this year the figure will be around the same, but for the first time Liverpool have dipped into the red.

When asked whether the crippling £40 million interest repayments which wipe out all operating profits are paid monthly, putting a strain on the club's cash flow, the response was that, as such detail is not a matter of public record, the club have declined to answer.

However there are fears that the club is heading for financial meltdown unless a new owner can be found, and so far there are no "credible" bidders. There has been nothing from a mystery bid involving Keith Harris, let alone the Kenny Huang bid that also failed to materialise.

City experts are now estimating that Liverpool's price tag in an RBS fire sale could be as little as £150 million, far short of the original expectations of Hicks and Gillett, who demanded £800 million and then dropped their asking price to £600 million.

Talk of a takeover before the transfer window proved to be a disappointing false dawn, and City financiers believe the value of the club will now plummet.

Liverpool suspect that potential new owners are waiting to grab the club for a knock-down price when RBS faces the prospect of selling the club itself from the October 6 deadline, when the bank's £237 million loan has to be repaid.

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