Liverpool chief right to show patience over offers

‘YOU’LL NEVER WOK ALONE’ eagerly exclaimed one tabloid newspaper three weeks ago as Chinese businessman Kenny Huang emerged as the early frontrunner to complete a takeover at Anfield.

Huang, the chairman of sports investment firm QSL, promised to clear the club’s debt, build a new stadium and invest heavily on player recruitment if he seized control of The Reds before the transfer window shuts on 31 August. A deal that sounded too good to be true, proved to be just that, when on Friday Huang released a statement revealing he was withdrawing from the running to become the next owner of Liverpool FC.

“After due consideration, Kenny Huang and QSL Sports is withdrawing from the ongoing sales process with respect to Liverpool FC,” the statement read.

“We concluded that a plan that properly capitalizes the business and provides funds for a new stadium and player related costs would allow Liverpool FC to provide its great fans with the success they deserve.

“We regret that we will not have the opportunity to implement this strategy.”

In the fall-out from the collapsed deal reports have emerged suggesting that Huang and his company grew tired of the protracted timescale placed on the prospective bid by the club, as well as chairman Martin Broughton’s handling of the affair. There was also a major disagreement over a clause which would allow the board to accept an 11th-hour bid from other potential buyers. Despite the club facing a £60m penalty charge from the Royal Bank of Scotland if the club isn’t sold by 6 October, Broughton and managing director Christian Purslow are not going to be rushed into a quickfire sale.

It is clearly in Liverpool’s interests to fully evaluate and analyse each bid accordingly, to ensure they avoid selling the club to the wrong party, that may not have the same priorities for the club as its fans. This of course was the case in February 2007 when former chairman David Moores and his chief executive Rick Parry accepted an offer from Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Moores certainly now knows the importance of properly evaluating all the bids on the table after since admitting he was wrong to sell the club to the warring American duo.

Considered as a serious contender to buy the club, Huang showed little determination or desire to stay in the running for Liverpool once the deadline he had placed on the deal had elapsed. Having raised his profile and that of his company, Huang has now walked away from the bid blaming ready-made scapegoat Broughton for its collapse.

Broughton, a life-long Chelsea fan, has struggled to win over the club’s fans since being appointed to find a buyer for LFC in April. The respected businessman was recommended by an associate of Hicks and Gillett and this link with the Americans leaves fans sceptical about Broughton’s intentions for the club. However, with Broughton working alongside Barclays Capital, Barclays’ investment banking arm, there is certainly no credible suggestion that a takeover deal could be sabotaged to boost the Americans’ profits.

By insisting on a clause which would allow the club to accept a last-minute offer, Broughton was protecting the interests of the club and allowing the maximum amount of time to secure the right deal for Liverpool FC. Broughton must have also been cautious about selling the club to Huang to include such a clause, despite the businessman providing proof of the funds needed to buy the club.

Anfield insiders however see Huang’s statement as a negotiating tactic and fully expect him to return to the bidding table. Whatever his intentions, it does not look like the sale will be a quick one. It now leaves four parties in the running to buy the club as the deadline to conclude a sale edges ever closer. After failing to correctly examine Hicks and Gillett’s offer for the club three-and-a-half years ago, Reds fans should take comfort that Broughton is not rushing into a quick sale. It seems some lessons may have been learnt from the mistakes made in 2007.

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