Just last month, the face of Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton was emblazoned on a banner held aloft from the Kop entitled, ‘Plague, Famine, War and Death- Four liars of the apocalypse’.
Ironically, the former British Airways chairman ultimately played a major part in saving Liverpool from this ‘apocalypse’ after fulfilling his mandate to find a buyer for the ailing club last week. In striking a £300m buyout deal with Red Sox owner John W.Henry, and his investment firm New England Sports Ventures, Broughton has given the club every chance to re-build its standing and reputation at the top of the English game.
By forcing Tom Hicks and George Gillett out of the club, Broughton has endeared himself to the Liverpool fans who have been desperate for a change of ownership. Jubilant fans sang, ‘We love you Martin, we do’ on the steps of London’s High Court on Wednesday, as the Americans frantic, final attempts to hang onto the club were nearly extinguished. The aforementioned banner has also now been retired too. You may argue that Broughton was simply doing his job; however you cannot deny that he has done it extremely well.
Initially accused by Reds supporters as being a stooge, or a puppet, for reviled owners Gillett and Hicks, Broughton found it difficult to win trust amongst the Anfield faithful. As a season ticket holder at Chelsea, fans were also worried that his Blue allegiance would compromise his position as the club’s chairman. Yet they needn’t have worried.
The 63-year-old was appointed in April after being recommended by Wall Street banker Michael Klein, a close acquaintance of the Americans. The appointment of Broughton as an independent Chairman was fundamental to the sale process, giving the search for a new owner credibility, with Hicks and Gillett’s reputation in tatters. If the duo thought they would still be able to influence the new man in the boardroom then they couldn’t have been more mistaken.
It was Broughton’s insistence to put a clause in his contract, allowing him to have the casting vote on any takeover which has been key. While another clause was also inserted to prevent Hicks and Gillett from blocking a sale. Both these passages in Broughton’s contract stood up in the High Court on Wednesday and were key components in Mr Justice Floyd’s emphatic ruling against the owners.
Since agreeing the club’s sale, Broughton has refused to back down despite intense and relentless pressure from Hicks and Gillett. He also responded to criticism over his lack of interaction with the club’s fans throughout the sale process in a candidly open and revealing interview with the BBC last week. He rightly believed that a running commentary on the sale would have only been detrimental to the club’s chances of securing a buyer. Broughton came across as intelligent and honest in that interview, something he has backed up in his actions over the last week.
Of course, it remains too early to judge if Broughton has made the right decision and secured the best deal in choosing NESV’s offer for the club. Yet there is no denying he pulled off a masterstroke in finally disposing of Hicks and Gillett with some shrewd business acumen. While on the surface, the choice of Henry appears to be ideal given his track record in upturning the fortunes of the Boston Red Sox.
I personally feel that the club would do well to retain the services of Broughton with a new era in the club’s history around the corner. However other Kopites will want all connections with the Hicks and Gillett era to be completely removed from the club.
Which ever way you feel, Broughton has done his job well and delivered the new owners he promised. And for that we should thank him.