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Sep 19, 2010

Liverpool fears grow over Hicks' takeover bid

Liverpool fear their star players will ask to leave if Tom Hicks wins his battle to wrest back control of the club.

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Hicks met Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton in London for talks last Wednesday to outline his plan to refinance through the American private equity firm Blackstone/GSO Group to give him a minimum of two more years to find a buyer.

The refinancing deal, which Hicks hopes he can conclude in advance of the Royal Bank of Scotland deadline of October 6, does not include funds to buy new players or to build a new stadium, which would conflict with the board's plea to their star players to stay at Anfield and await the arrival of new owners who will invest in the team and a £400 million new stadium.

A leading banking source close to the inside track on events told ESPNsoccernet: "If Hicks gets his way, it would be a catastrophe for Liverpool. Besides more debt, higher interest payments and no stadium, it won't be a question of selling players but whether the players will want to go.

"The players were told by the board in the summer that there would be new owners and a new stadium, and that they would not be sold.

"If the top players can see what is happening, and if it happens, they will want to go, rather than the club wanting to sell them."

The likes of Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard had been assured during the summer that new owners were arriving and there would be funds to invest in new players. Pepe Reina recently spoke out about the need for new arrivals if the club are to become challengers again.

However, Hicks' plan would leave the Reds with far more severe problems than previously imagined.

The source added: "Up to last week when Hicks turned up with his plan, the worst-case scenario was that Liverpool would end up in mid-table without Champions League football again, but in no danger of going down, and would struggle along until the Americans went, sooner or later, and new owners would come along and rescue the club."

Liverpool's board are now deciding whether to mount a legal challenge to stop Hicks and in what form it would take. The board are short of time, with Hicks suggesting he will be in a position to refinance from the start of October as he plans to raise £281 million through GSO, an offshoot of Blackstone that specialises in lending to distressed companies.

There is, however, the hope that Hicks' plans will fall flat as the source added: "He hasn't actually raised the money yet."

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