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Liverpool 'never at risk', says Richard Scudamore

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard celebrates after scoring a goal
Liverpool were finally sold after a series of court battles

Liverpool's future was never at risk during its takeover in October, says Premier League chief Richard Scudamore.

American company New England Sporting Ventures (NESV) took over from Tom Hicks and George Gillett in a lengthy saga which reached the High Court.

"I'm satisfied the takeover went as smoothly as it could have done," Scudamore told BBC 5 live's Sportsweek.

But Scudamore also admitted the Premier League is powerless to prevent "another Hicks and Gillett happening".

"They passed our tests then and they would pass our current tests in terms of them as individuals," added the Premier League's chief executive.

Hicks and Gillett, who bought Liverpool in February 2007, angered many Reds fans with the way they ran the club after they saddled it with debt following a leveraged buy-out by the Americans.

I've spent considerable time with the new owners of Liverpool and I have huge regard for them

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore

But the downturn in the global economy forced Hicks and Gillett to put the club up for sale in April, although the buy-out by NESV only came after the former co-owners removed a temporary restraining order blocking the £300m sale.

NESV's purchase reduced the club's debt servicing obligations from £25m-£30m a year to an annual £2m-£3m, as well as ensuring Liverpool's holding company would not be put into administration, which might have resulted in a nine-point penalty in the Premier League.

"It was inevitable the change of ownership was going to happen and fairly inevitable it would be tense at the end but the club was never at risk. There were a number of bidders and the outcome is what always likely to happen," said Scudamore.

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Last season the Premier League introduced measures to tighten the ownership and financial management of clubs with its owners and directors test.

Teams must now submit far more detailed financial information to prove they are able to pay their debts to football creditors, while new owners must meet the League's board before a takeover is approved.

And Scudamore predicted that "leveraged" buy-outs would become less common.

"The world has moved on and that sort of borrowing versus that sort of asset is not available anymore and could not be obtained now to put a deal together," said Scudamore.

"If we deem the level of leverage is too high and therefore the business to be unsustainable, we have much more power now to either prevent that happening or apply stringent controls on the club.

"It would be very difficult to stop leveraged buy-outs. I would prefer not to see it but we have to live in the real world.

"Leveraged debt per se is not wrong but things around it like the terms and the short nature of it need to be tightened."

Scudamore is confident that the NESV, the company fronted by John W Henry, who also owns the Boston Red Sox baseball team, can help the Reds regain their former glories.

"Liverpool is a fantastic club, and despite their recent struggles they have been able to attract new owners," said the Premier League's chief executive. "We all must hope that these owners will go on and do a good job there.

"I've spent considerable time with the new owners and I have huge regard for them. They understand this is about about the fans feeling part of the club again and they understand about sport.

"They are the first to say they don't know everything about English football but as we have seen by their work with the Boston Red Sox, they know how to turn a fantastic club into a sporting success."

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see also
Liverpool 2-1 Blackburn
24 Oct 10 |  Premier League
Liverpool owner to spend 'wisely'
18 Oct 10 |  Liverpool
Hodgson backed by new owners NESV
17 Oct 10 |  Liverpool
Henry pledges to revive Liverpool
16 Oct 10 |  Liverpool
Hicks fury at Liverpool 'swindle'
15 Oct 10 |  Liverpool
NESV completes Liverpool takeover
15 Oct 10 |  Liverpool
League approves Anfield takeover
08 Oct 10 |  Liverpool
US pair agree Liverpool takeover
06 Feb 07 |  Liverpool


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