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Page last updated at 02:47 GMT, Wednesday, 6 October 2010 03:47 UK

Liverpool's board split over two new bids to buy club

Liverpool co-owners Tom Hicks (right) and George Gillett are under pressure to sell
Gillett (left) and Hicks have come under pressure to sell from Liverpool fans

By Dan Roan
BBC sports news correspondent

Liverpool have been plunged into crisis after two new bids for the club triggered a remarkable boardroom split and legal dispute over who has power at Anfield.

A board meeting was held on Tuesday when the approaches, later described as "excellent financial offers" by the club, were discussed by chairman Martin Broughton, managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre.

One bid is from Asia, the other from US sports group New England Sports Ventures, owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball team, BBC Sport understands.

However, in an attempt to block any sale and regain control of the club, owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett tried to sack Purslow and Ayre and replace them with Hicks's son, Mack Hicks, and Lori Kay McCutcheon, a vice president at Hicks Holdings.

The US pair later released a statement saying the bids "dramatically undervalue the club" and are understood to have argued that the directors were not acting in the best interests of Liverpool FC.

606: DEBATE
DUFC

The three English members of Liverpool's board favour a sale to one of the two new bidders and are now consulting lawyers over whether they can resist the owners' attempts to replace them and force through a sale.

A club statement added: "This matter is now subject to legal review and a further announcement will be made in due course. Meanwhile, Martin Broughton, Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre continue to explore every possible route to achieving a sale of the club at the earliest opportunity."

Hicks and Gillett said they remained committed to "finding the right buyer for LFC, one that could support and sustain the club in the future" but added that it had to be "at a fair price that reflects the very significant investment we've made".

Jonathan Pearce(l) and Dan walker(r)

Jonathan Pearce discusses Liverpool's struggles

The joint statement continued: "We will resist any attempt to sell the club without due process or agreement by the owners.

"They have invested more than $270m [£170m] in cash into the club, and during their tenure revenues have nearly doubled, investment in players has increased and the club is one of the most profitable in the Premier League."

Both bidders are thought to be offering about £300m for the club, enough to pay back the £240m of loans and £40m of fees owed to Royal Bank of Scotland, which must be settled at the end of next week.

However, this valuation falls well short of the £600m that Hicks and Gillett are thought to want for the club, hence their opposition.

The club says both new bids "would repay all its long-term debt" but any resolution to the saga could now be delayed by the fresh legal dispute over who is ultimately in control at Anfield.

Liverpool were put up for sale by Hicks and Gillett in April with debts of £351.4m.

They initially sought an asking price of about £800m, a figure they subsequently dropped to £600m.

In August, there were abortive bids from Hong Kong businessman Kenny Huang while a consortium fronted by Syrian businessman Yahya Kirdi also expressed an interest.

Earlier on Tuesday, Kirdi was quoted as saying the group he represents were dropping out of contention, adding: "Once everyone is united and there's logic in the price and the overall deal, me and my group will be prepared to return to the table."

The owners paid £174.1m to buy the club in 2007, while also agreeing to take on the club's debt of £44.8m.

It was said to be a new dawn for the Anfield outfit, with outgoing chairman David Moores describing it as "a great step forward for its shareholders and its fans".

But little has gone right for either the club or its owners since then, with plans for a new stadium scuppered by the credit crunch and increasing amounts of debt taken out by the owners and secured against Liverpool FC.

Kenny Dalglish hopes buyer can be found

The club slipped into the Premier League relegation zone after losing at home to Blackpool at the weekend and were earlier knocked out of the League Cup by League Two side Northampton.

Many fans have become increasingly outraged at the pair's ownership of the club, which is said to be currently £237.4m in debt, and their failure to carry through promises to build a new stadium.

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has set a deadline of 15 October for that debt to be repaid or a penalty fee of £60m will be due.

The bank has the option of extending the deadline once again, or calling it in, taking control and then selling the club to the highest bidder.

Many fans of the Merseyside club are keen to see RBS call in the debt, even if it means the parent company Kop Holdings going into administration, with the club potentially receiving a nine-point penalty from the Premier League as a result.



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see also
Relegation form worries Hodgson
04 Oct 10 |  Premier League
Hodgson understands fans' protest
26 Sep 10 |  Liverpool
Liverpool chief calms money fears
22 Sep 10 |  Liverpool
Hodgson sorry for Cup humiliation
23 Sep 10 |  League Cup
Hicks to target Liverpool buyout
17 Sep 10 |  Liverpool
Benitez slams Liverpool hierarchy
21 Sep 10 |  Europe
US pair agree Liverpool takeover
06 Feb 07 |  Liverpool


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