Dubai International Capital agreed late Friday to become a minority partner in Liverpool and is now locked in negotiations to purchase a 49 per cent stake in the Premier League club.
After initially rebuffing the concept, the UAE consortium said it would cede to Tom Hicks’ condition that his Anfield partner George Gillett Jr would be limited to selling 98 per cent of his stock.
But after the breakthrough was announced, Hicks told The Associated Press that no deal had been reached with DIC and that it still faces competition to acquire even a minority interest.
“DIC are a serious and determined group, and one of several we are considering,” Hicks told the AP.
Earlier this week Hicks rebuffed DIC’s 500 million pound ($993 million; Dh3.64 billion) bid for the whole club. That would have included paying off the refinancing package Americans Hicks and Gillett negotiated in January for the loan used to purchase the Reds.
“Subject to renegotiation of a partnership agreement and subject to the stringent minority shareholder protection rights we would be prepared to accept a 49 per cent shareholding in Liverpool FC,” DIC’s lead negotiator Amanda Staveley said in a statement. “We have decided that this arrangement provides the best possible solution to the situation and would be in the best interests of the club and their loyal fans.”
Both Hicks and Gillett were in telephone contact with Staveley on Friday, but a deal was yet to be signed.
Hicks has a team of lawyers in Dubai ready to meet with DIC’s legal representatives early next week.
Because of a pre-emption agreement by which Hicks and Gillett have the power to prevent the other from selling, Hicks controls the situation, a person familiar with the situation said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
Liverpool fans have mounted a stream of protests against the turmoil in the Anfield boardroom, with the Kop backing the DIC bid to remove the American owners in chants at half time in Wednesday’s 4-0 victory over West Ham.
Fans are upset that the duo have saddled the club with debt, failed to start building a new stadium and sought to replace popular manager Rafa Benitez.
But this compromise deal could only add to the uncertainty which has blighted Liverpool’s season. DIC is determined not to take a backseat in the running of the club – and still is still focused on gaining control of the club – despite Hicks being on the verge of acquiring a majority interest by buying 2 per cent of Gillett’s stock.
Gillett had been offered up to $158 million (Dh579.86 million), including a share of future profits, to sell his full stake and end his turbulent year in English soccer. It is unclear what he will be offered for 98 per cent of his stake.
Hicks and Gillett bought Liverpool for 218.9 million pounds ($431 million; Dh1.58 billion) in March 2007, and each own 50 per cent of the club. (AP)