All I can say, is that it’s about time they did something. George Gillett and Tom Hicks are hopefully finally going to put their money where their mouths are by offering a share issue which could raise £100m for the club and reduce their controlling stake to only 35%. Since they came to the club over two years, there have been many promises such as a new stadium and a giant transfer kitty for Benitez to spend on new players. Nearly all have been empty and without any grounding in reality, for what has actually taken place in the boardroom is a public slanging match between the pair which has led to an impasse on all fronts. They have disputed how the club should be run through media interviews destroying a reputation which has seen for decades disputes being carried out behind closed doors. The “Liverpool way” had been mocked and dismissed by two brash Americans who cared little for the reputation and only about their own egos.
The falling out, which has been so public and so bitter, has begun to thaw in recent weeks. They were recently seen sitting next to each other at the Manchester United game (all be it only for the first half) for they are plainly aware that a financial crisis would befall the club if recent form doesn’t improve. If, as it seems most likely, Liverpool fail to qualify for the knockout round of the Champions League, the club stands to lose £18m and this is only the tip of the iceberg. The American owners are becoming increasingly concerned of not qualifying for next seasons Champions League which could lose them over £30m of revenue for the club. The owners have for once decided to put aside their differences and take decisive action.
The share issue will finally put to an end a stalemate that has seen the two owners being at loggerheads for months over who should sell their controlling stake. Despite Gillett’s desire to sell his 50% share to a consortium in the Middle East, Hicks has not allowed Gillett to sell, out of spite or out of a desire to buy his stake off him. This infantile row has changed over the last few months and as the owners realised what sort of financial hole the club will be in if they don’t find new investment. The credit crunch which they said put pay to a new stadium and nearly led to the withdrawal of bank loans, combined with this more immediate concern of no Champions league football, has led the owners to take action.
The managing director, Christian Purslow has been in negotiation with interested parties to raise the 100m which they believe such shares are worth. So what would the money be used for? The priority it seems is to actually get going on the new stadium project at Stanley Park which they have been promising since they came to the club. It is something that both Hicks and Gillett actually agree on, that the only way forward for the club is to raise revenue from increased gate receipts at a new Anfield. The rest will be used to provide funding for transfers in the January transfer window for the pair are plainly aware of the shortcomings in Rafa Benitez’s squad. It is essential that Liverpool finish fourth so as to secure the short-term future of the club and the owners are prepared to risk all in January by spending big. If they don’t, the loss of financial revenue from the Champions League next season would be catastrophic and a player exodus of players such as Javier Mascherano and Fernando Torres might ensue to compensate for the loss.
Whether Benitez is the manager that gets the transfer money is another question all together, only one win from the last eight games means he is under heavy pressure, and if this share issue is successful, the pressure would only increase, for if results don’t improve, Gillett and Hicks would be very reluctant to give their final throw of the dice to a man who is not delivering the results required. The £20m compensation required to pay off Benitez and his backroom staff would no longer be an issue with such large investment coming into the club. The next two months might then just decide Benitez’s fate and the long term future of Liverpool football club both in the boardroom and in the dressing room.