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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 February 2007, 20:55 GMT
Mihir Bose view
BBC sports editor Mihir Bose gets inside sport
By Mihir Bose
BBC sports editor

The Liverpool takeover by American tycoons George Gillett and Tom Hicks is an extraordinary story of a bride who changed her mind almost at the altar.

The club seemingly pledged to the Arabs but suddenly, almost at the steps of the church she decided that, no, it was the Americans she wanted.

Curiously, it was something the Arabs had said, or rather a document that they had produced, that made the bride change her mind.

New Liverpool owners George Gillett (left) and Tom Hicks
Liverpool are the third English side to come under American control

The story is of course entirely in keeping with the Liverpool takeover which has been going on for three-and-a-half years - even on the day the wedding vows were to be exchanged there were problems and delays.

This time the problem was IT.

PDF files on e-mail just would not go from Liverpool to London which meant that a marriage meant to be announced at 0730 GMT finally emerged at just gone 1200, the clock ticking past before I could go on BBC News 24 and confirm the deal was done.

The midday hour had struck and Liverpool had finally found its suitors.

The story had always been complicated by the rich cast of foreigners who, during the last three years, have wanted to buy Liverpool.

This was a list including the Thai Prime Minister who has since lost his job, a company ultimately owned by Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai, and now two rich Americans - one of whom is a Texan who did business with George Bush.

There were three failed takeover attempts in 2004 alone.

So why was this takeover so complicated?

One of the main reasons was David Moores, chairman of Liverpool. As owner of 51% of the club he effectively decided who the buyer would be.

But I am told that during the three-and-a-half years he would sometimes want to sell the club and sometimes not.

His mood swings varied according to how his team was doing on the field. If they had won he wanted to hold on to the club, hoping they would win the league title they have not claimed since 1990.

Gillett went back to America, rebuffed by Moores, but he decided to look for a partner and came back with real means

However, by the end of November he seemed to have decided that Dubai International Capital was his ideal partner.

Moores knew Liverpool needed more money, not least to fund the new stadium the club is committed to. He could not provide the money. He also felt that DIC - ultimately owned by the fabulously wealthy Maktoum family - had the sort of deep pockets that Chelsea's Roman Abramovich has.

But George Gillett, the rich American who owns the Montreal ice hockey team, was not to be denied.

He knew he could only do the deal if he could persuade Moores to change his mind.

And as luck would have it DIC provided him the weapon. They had produced a document entitled Project Oslo, a seven-page document which dealt with their reasons for buying Liverpool.

This clearly indicated that they saw Liverpool as an investment and explicitly stated that they wanted to develop the commercial business of the club. They expected to make a return on capital of around 25% a year.

They wanted to sell the club after seven or eight years.

I was given a copy of the document just around Christmas and the moment my story appeared it led to problems.

The Liverpool board were not aware of the document and not pleased when they heard it had been circulated around the City.

DIC were forced to provide an explanation. DIC said that this was an internal document that had been produced just to look at the investment they were making. They were committed to Liverpool and had no plans to sell the club after a few years.

The Liverpool board, too, tried to brush it aside. Chief executive Rick Parry told Radio Five Live that the sale to DIC was on course and Liverpool also engaged Mike Lee, a very successful press operator, to handle the news.

Rick Parry (left) and David Moores
Parry (left) continues as chief executive, while Moores is life president

But for all their denials behind the scenes, the story had a big impact on the Liverpool board and some of the directors who began to have doubts.

Just before the story broke, on 18 December, Gillett had formed Kop, the company that has been set up to buy Liverpool.

I ran my story, with the leaked documents, on 27 December. A few days after my story appeared, Gillett struck. He had gone back to America, rebuffed by Moores, but had not sulked.

Instead he decided to look for a partner and found one in Tom Hicks, a sports owner even richer than himself. This meant he could come back to Liverpool with real means. It was now not one rich American, but two in tandem.

In his new improved offer, Gillett offered more money. DIC was offering 4,500 a share, valuing the equity of Liverpool at 156.7m. Gillett and Hicks offered 500 a share more, valuing it at 174 million.

They also promised no groundshare with Everton - vitally important for fans of both Merseyside clubs.

Initially, Moores was inclined to ignore the offer but I am told there were other shareholders who wanted it looked at.

By this time the exclusive negotiation period with DIC had ended and Gillett was allowed to start due diligence, examining the books of Liverpool, but even then it seemed Liverpool and Moores would wed the Arabs.

Gillett wanted assurances that while he was doing due diligence Moores would not sign up with DIC, though the Liverpool chairman refused to give this assurance.

Gillett started the due diligence not knowing whether it was worthwhile and all the briefings from Liverpool were that it was still the Arabs who would win the bride.

But Gillett completed his due diligence in remarkably quick time, less than a week. He and Hicks flew over to England and started a series of meetings with Moores.

The turning point came one night last week when Liverpool played West Ham at Upton Park. While they won on the field, in the boardroom the Arabs were losing to the Americans.

Liverpool held a board meeting and when a DIC representative turned up and began to seek assurances he got none, or at least that is what DIC afterwards claimed.

Liverpool said a gun had been held to their heads, with Moores being asked to agree within 12 hours. But whatever the truth, relations had broken down. The bride, in sight of the church steps, had decided to turn around.

By the end of the match the two Americans were almost ready to slip the wedding ring on.

It took a few more days for the new wedding to be arranged and, despite the 11th-hour problems, in the end the Americans won.



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