In 2010, Liverpool was sold to Fenway Sports Group in a £300M deal forced through against the wishes of owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett after the debts they piled on the club led the Royal Bank of Scotland to demand representation on Liverpool’s board and a say in the sale of the club. The ousted owners dubbed it an epic swindle. If they’d been a little less greedy, though, they could well have walked away with a profit.
So says former Celtic star Andy Lynch, who was involved in an effort earlier that year to complete a £400M sale of the club to a Dubai Sheikh who was interested in buying it. According to Lynch, a deal was agreed and money was on the table. Then Hicks and Gillet decided the fee had been agreed too quickly and easily and asked for more. The sale collapsed, and a few months later they found the club sold out from under them.
“I was in Australia when my agent, based in Montreal, told me he was representing a conglomerate that wanted to buy a football club,” said Lynch. “He didn’t know much about football, asked me to get involved, [said] that there would be plenty of money in it. I asked what club it was and he told me Liverpool. He said, ‘They’re good, aren’t they?’ This was all from a Sheikh in Dubai who had serious money and things quickly developed.”
Lynch acted as a middle man in the deal and spent the following months talking to parties on both sides of the deal, though a confidentiality agreement limits how much he can say. Even limited, though, it doesn’t do anything to rehabilitate the image of Hicks or Gillett, painting the duo as the leeches on the club most Liverpool fans saw them as and whose debt-leveraged approach in the end quite nearly led Liverpool to bankruptcy.
“They were owned by the Americans George Gillett and Tom Hicks back then,” Lynch noted. “I was flown first class everywhere, stayed in the top hotels in London, and I’m thinking, ‘These guys are awfully generous.’ The penny then dropped. They were using Liverpool’s money and not their own. They ran up a huge debt at the club. The then-owners were only paying the interest on a bank loan. They put nothing into the club.
“Right at the end, the Sheik’s representative didn’t trust anyone, and rightly so, although he quite liked me. He had the cheque for £400m, I was there. But then Hicks, Gillet and this agent guy decided they got the money too easily, there was no question about the original figure, so they added on something extra and the Sheik told his guy to tear up the cheque and come home.”