High Court paves way for Liverpool sale

The High Court has cleared the way for New England Sports Ventures’ (NESV) £300m takeover of Liverpool FC.

Justice Ford ruled against the club’s owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett and in favour of the club’s major creditor RBS and its board, led by chairman Martin Broughton.

RBS had brought the action against Hicks and Gillett, claiming that two had breached contractual undertakings when they attempted to block the sale of the club to NESV last week.

The duo tried to sack two board members, managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre, and replace them with Hicks’s son Mack and vice president of Hicks Holdings, Lori McCutcheon.

The US businessmen’s request to delay the hearing of an application from RBS for mandatory orders that would pave the way for the sale of the club later this week were rejected.

Justice Floyd instead told Hicks and Gillett to reconstitute the board, allowing Broughton to proceed with the sale of the club to NESV.

A board meeting is scheduled for 8pm this evening (13 October) when the board will look to rubber-stamp the sale.

Speaking outside the court, Broughton says: “Justice has been done. We will now continue with the sale process. We will have a board meeting tonight and the owners will certainly be invited.”

John W Henry, who fronts NESV, greeted the news on Twitter: “Well done Martin, Christian & Ian. Well done RBS. Well done supporters”.

It is not clear whether Hicks and Gillet have an avenue for appeal. Justice Floyd says that an appeal would be “inappropriate” but it is said that the co-owners could still try for an appeal at the Court of Appeal.

The judge, however, concluded that “the owners do not have an absolute right to veto a sale.”

The NESV deal will leave Hicks and Gillett with no return on their £140m investment. The majority of the fee, about £200m, will pay off the club’s debt to Royal Bank of Scotland and US bank Wachovia. The rest would be paid to the club’s other creditors.

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