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Oct 15, 2010

Hicks 'shocked, devastated and frustrated' after sale

Former Liverpool owner Tom Hicks has reacted with astonishment at the sale of Liverpool to New England Sports Ventures, claiming he is "shocked" and "cannot understand the fans' anger".

• Adams: What a relief
• Takeover finally completed
• Hodgson welcomes takeover
• Hicks & Gillett seek $1.6bn damages
• Forum: How will it affect Reds?
• Carragher signs new deal

In an amazing interview, Hicks blamed an "internet terrorism campaign" for the collapse of a takeover from mega-rich multi-billionaires - on the scale of Manchester City.

He also claimed an "organised conspiracy" by Liverpool and the Royal Bank of Scotland led to the sale of the club to John W Henry's company. He criticised chairman Martin Broughton, citing that he is really a Chelsea fan but simply wanted to be the man to hound both himself and George Gillett out of the club.

Hicks said that Rafael Benitez had "lost the club".

And he said the matter is far from over and all will come out in the courts.

Asked how he felt about the sale, Hicks told Sky Sports News: "Shocked. Devastated. Frustrated. I'm very disappointed.

"It's hurt my family tremendously. This is a very valuable asset that was swindled away from me in an epic swindle. I'm very angry about it.

"This has been an organised conspiracy over many months. [Liverpool independent chairman] Martin Broughton wanted a good PR event in his life and be seen as the guy that got rid of those Americans - and he sold to another group of Americans.

"I can't go into the details but I can confirm the funds were available to pay off Royal Bank of Scotland entirely but between Royal Bank of Scotland, the chairman and the employees that conspired against us, they would not let us.

"They were people I thought were our friends, people I thought were loyal, and I was wrong.

"We spent £300million on players, £150million net - I think it's the second or third highest in the English Premier League. You never read about that in the media.

"I read a very interesting article in which Alex Ferguson said 'Rafa had more money to spend than the rest of us, he just bought bad players'.

"Rafa lost the club. We didn't finish at the top - that's not the fault of the owners, we spent good money. Rafa has to take accountability for his own results.

"When we finished second the year before, people weren't nearly as angry. Liverpool fans are just unbelievably strong supporters and they want to win.

"I'm not a novice, I've been in sport for almost 15 years. Whether it's hockey or baseball in the US or soccer fans in Liverpool, people want to win.

"My family members and I have been working very hard to solve the issue. We know there are better owners out there for the Liverpool Football Club than the Boston Red Sox group. We knew who they were. We were just frustrated that every time we had conversations with them we had people in our own organisation who somehow had those things not work out.

"They conspired against us. They were people I thought were our friends, people I thought were loyal, and I was wrong. The process was continually frustrated by chatter about financial distress coming out of RBS.

"The interested buyers that we knew would be the right type of buyers for the club - look what's happened to Manchester City now with their new ownership - that's the kind of buyer we were trying to find for Liverpool and those people were scared off by the distress chatter and the organised internet terrorism campaign that was directed against people involved.

"I just want the truth to come out in the courts. Our desire was to get Liverpool into the hands of an owner who would be able to build a stadium and make Liverpool the top club in the world they deserve to be.''

The 64-year-old Texan admitted that the debt he and Gillett had saddled on the club was "a little too much'', but he hit out at the Royal Bank of Scotland for attempting to drive through a sale too quickly.

"Liverpool is a very healthy performing club which covers its interest fine," he continued. "It has a little bit too much debt, no question. But we were going to fix that and we were frustrated by others.

On the angry protests from the club's fans he said: "I cannot understand the fans' anger.

"I accept that fact that something went wrong in my ability to communicate with the fans and I'm saddened by it. I wish more people had the accurate information. It (the debt figures) have been a millstone because of the fans' reaction to it.

"There's been so many inaccurate numbers about what our interest bill is - we've had plenty of operating income to cover our interest payments with a lot of room to spare.

"We've invested. George and I put in $270 million into the club. We've spent nearly $300 million gross on players. About $150 million net on players and you never hear that in the media.

"That disappears in all the noise and anger.''

The delay over the building of a new stadium for the club was yet another subject to exercise fans' ire. Gillett claimed after taking over that "the shovel has to be in the ground within 60 days''.

"George said that because that was our plan,'' Hicks said. "The design was done 10 years ago, we thought we were going to build it and planned to get that going in the first couple of months. When we presented the new stadium plans in August 2007, that fans who came up to the stadium liked them.

"The people that wanted to be angry at Gillett and Hicks, that's one thing they picked up on. They didn't talk about the reality. We had the chance to build a world-class stadium in Liverpool and I hope the group that took the club today builds that stadium.''

Hicks said the club was ready to start building in late 2008 when the global credit crisis hit and their funding was revoked.

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