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Feb 17, 2011

Liverpool delight over Hicks ruling

Liverpool have expressed their satisfaction with the High Court's decision to stop former owner Tom Hicks from taking legal action in the United States over what he called an ''epic swindle''.

• Hicks awaits damages ruling
• Carragher not ready to retire

Hicks failed in his bid to have orders barring action against the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in the US lifted as Mr Justice Floyd ruled Hicks must bring any claims he has in the UK.

The American is not able to pursue a lawsuit in the US, where damages can be much more punitive, without the permission of an English court. The judge also cleared the way for Hicks to be sued himself.

In a statement the club said: ''Last week a further hearing took place as part of the ongoing litigation following the successful sale of the club in October 2010 to NESV.

''We are delighted that Mr Justice Floyd has granted the applications requested by Sir Martin Broughton, RBS and NESV and that the anti-suit injunction prohibiting the former owners from commencing legal actions against these parties outside the EU has been upheld and clarified.

''Sir Martin, RBS and NESV continue to maintain that there is no basis to challenge the propriety or validity of any actions by them or any of those involved on their behalf in the sale of the club.

''They will continue to take all steps necessary to defend vigorously any litigation threatened or commenced by the club's former owners.''

Hicks claims the club was sold against his wishes to New England Sports Ventures (NESV) for £300 million in October last year and the deal went ahead after Mr Justice Floyd granted anti-suit orders which prevented Hicks taking action in the Texas courts to halt the deal.

Hicks, who along with co-owner George Gillett pledged to get damages of at least $1.6 billion, applied to the same judge last week to lift the anti-suit orders - which had been placed ''on the basis of what appeared to me [Mr Justice Floyd] to be the unconscionable conduct of the former owners in seeking to undermine the English proceedings''.

Mr Justice Floyd dismissed his application but made a change to the original injuction to allow Hicks the chance to take up legal action in the US but only if that would aid proceedings in the UK and as long as the parties are given seven days' notice.

Perhaps more importantly for Hicks, the judge dismissed an application to 'strike out or stay' claims by Sir Martin Broughton, former chairman of the club, to seek damages against Hicks for his actions while owner. And NESV were also given the right to join Broughton in any legal action, which means the new Liverpool owners, Broughton and RBS could collectively sue Hicks.

NESV bought the club after repaying a £237 million loan Hicks and Gillett took out with RBS and Wells Fargo and Co. That was despite the two American owners maintaining that they had offered to pay the outstanding debt, but that was rejected.

Mr Justice Floyd, in his ruling, said the sale of Liverpool came about because of Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett's indebtedness and explained why he did not discharge the anti-suit injunction which still bars the duo from starting any legal action in the United States.

''The reality of the situation is that the former owners have already started two sets of proceedings and openly asserted their intention to start more,'' he said. ''They will undoubtedly start more proceedings if allowed to do so. There is a real threat that those proceedings will be in the United States.

''I still find it difficult to imagine what possible real connection such a claim would have with any jurisdiction in the United States.

''The disputes concern an English asset, duties owed by English directors under English law to English companies, and corporate governance arrangements governed by English law.

''I think the time has come when they need to state their case or accept that they do not have one.''

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