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Page last updated at 12:40 GMT, Friday, 17 September 2010 13:40 UK

Texan billionaire Tom Hicks to target Liverpool buyout

George Gillett and Tom Hicks
Gillett and Hicks have angered fans with their running of Liverpool

By Dan Roan
BBC sports news correspondent

Any attempt by Liverpool's co-owner Tom Hicks to gain sole control of the club will have no support from the majority of Liverpool's board but could succeed, BBC Sport understands.

Texan billionaire Hicks met Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton on Wednesday, informing him he was considering raising money to refinance the club's £237.4m debt with Royal Bank of Scotland before a deadline set for early October.

The talks were described by a senior club source as "blunt but constructive" but the prospect of Hicks remaining in control of the Premier League club will horrify many Liverpool fans desperate for a change of ownership.

Co-owner George Gillett is reported to be struggling to pay back a £75m loan secured against his 50% stake in the club in 2008 and Hicks is considering buying his partner out, although Gillett insists he is not on the brink of defaulting.

Hicks and Gillett bought the Reds in February 2007 in a deal that valued the club at £218.9m.

Kenny Dalglish hopes buyer can be found

But the American duo have endured a difficult time at Anfield, with supporters regularly voicing their dissatisfaction at the level of debt taken on by the club after their buyout.

Broughton, who was appointed in April at the request of RBS as a condition for the bank extending its loan to the Americans for a further six months, has previously said he wants to find a new owner willing to wipe out the club's debt and build a new stadium.

Along with managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre, Broughton sits on the club's five-man board alongside Hicks and Gillett.

The three Englishmen will oppose Hicks' plan if he manages to raise the funds required.

The Americans failed to generate the necessary money in June because the proposed refinancing was with RBS and would lead to the club being saddled with more debt and interest repayments.

However, the board privately acknowledge that this time Hicks could succeed if he refinances with a different bank and are seeking legal advice on their power to block any attempt he may make.

"Technically, if he pays off RBS 100% the bank can't really refuse to receive the money so it can be removed from the scene," the source told BBC Sport.

Kenny Huang
Kenny Huang ended his interest in buying Liverpool at the end of August

"That would make the legal position of whether such a plan can be vetoed very complicated and difficult. It would have no support from three members of the board.

"The board's directors are obliged to do what's best for both the shareholders (Hicks and Gillett) and also the business (Kop Holdings) but these two objectives could be in conflict, so legal advice is being sought as to what's possible."

Hicks has not approached RBS yet to discuss his plan but the source admitted the prospect was "possible" and "could not be ruled out".

James McKenna, spokesman for Spirit of Shankly, the Liverpool Supporters' Union, predicts an angry response from fans to any attempt by Hicks to keep hold of the club.

"This is the latest in an on-going soap opera but we don't want either Hicks or Gillett involved in the club and these plans will be met with the fiercest of protests," he said. "These reports are a worry."

Hicks and Gillett put the debt-ridden club up for sale in April, valuing it at £600m but no-one has come close to meeting that figure.

Hong Kong businessman Kenny Huang was interested but withdrew from negotiations to buy the club at the end of August.

Hicks and Gillett face losing the club to RBS, which must decide whether to call in the loan and take control of the club, agree to another extension, or force a sale to the highest bidder.



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see also
German club fans set for boycott
17 Sep 10 |  Premier League
Huang ends interest in Liverpool
20 Aug 10 |  Liverpool
Liverpool consider 'several' bids
02 Aug 10 |  Liverpool
Moores calls for Liverpool sale
26 May 10 |  Liverpool
Liverpool post loss as debts rise
08 May 10 |  Liverpool
Liverpool step up investor search
11 Apr 10 |  Liverpool
Fans make Liverpool takeover move
31 Jan 08 |  Business
Owners put Liverpool up for sale
16 Apr 10 |  Liverpool
US pair agree Liverpool takeover
06 Feb 07 |  Liverpool


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