Tom Hicks looks to private equity help to keep hold of Liverpool, would share control

Published September 19, 2010

| Associated Press

Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks is launching another bid to keep hold of the Premier League club by securing financing from a private equity company which would share control with him.

Hicks along with co-owner George Gillett Jr. had put the club up for sale in April, saying they lacked the funding to take Liverpool forward, on and off the pitch, due to its debt of 237 million pounds ($370 million).

But the lack of formal offers for the 18-time English champions has led to the Texan putting together his own financing deal, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Sunday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

GSO Capital Partners, a subsidiary of Blackstone, has offered Hicks a two-year funding package worth around 280 million ($437 million) pounds ahead of the October deadline facing the owners to repay the club's debt to Royal Bank of Scotland.

Blackstone, which would then have shared control of the club in return for its investment, was not immediately available for comment.

Blackstone's funding would give Hicks until 2012 to sell Liverpool and find an investor to match his valuation of around 600 million pounds and make a significant return on the 218.9 million pounds (then $431 million) the Americans paid for the club in 2007.

Hicks hopes the funding would allow him to take full control, pay down the debt significantly and provide funds for players. It would also see Gillett's 50 percent stake diluted, with the Colorado-native staying at Liverpool in what the person described as an "inactive" role.

Liverpool's debt was placed in RBS's Global Restructuring Group section, which is dedicated to distressed assets.

A first attempt by Hicks to refinance the debt was rejected earlier this year by the Liverpool board to allow Barclays Capital bank to continue the search for a buyer.

But Gillett and Hicks could again be outvoted by managing director Christian Purslow, finance director Philip Nash and commercial director Ian Ayre on the board.

A global cast of purported investors have come forward claiming to be the solution to Liverpool's financial predicament, but the owners have yet to find an acceptable buyer.

A 500 million pound (then $993 million) bid from Dubai International Capital was rejected in 2008. At that time, Hicks tried to buy Gillett's 50 percent stake.

Last year, Gillett sold the Montreal Canadiens, the Gillett Entertainment Group and the Bell Centre back to the Molson family for $580 million.

Hicks' baseball team, the Texas Rangers, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May and was bought in August by team president Nolan Ryan and sports attorney Chuck Greenberg at auction for $590 million.

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