Arabs set to enter the battle of Anfield
Published 18/04/2008 | 11:17
Undeterred by the latest public outburst by Liverpool's co-owner Tom Hicks, the Arab consortium Dubai International Capital is ready to buy out his partner George Gillett within six weeks when a legal bar on the sale of his 50 per cent stake is lifted.
Just when it seemed that Hicks had no mud left to throw at the club's chief executive, Rick Parry, he redoubled his efforts to draw Rafael Benitez into the fight to remove him yesterday by claiming that Parry had spent "three or four hours" alone with Jürgen Klinsmann before a board meeting he and co-owner Gillett had called.
Hicks' interview, conducted at his home in Dallas, ranged from the vitriolic – he described Parry as a "disaster" – to the farcical. Wearing a Liverpool jersey and drinking from a club mug, he celebrated the 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers by saying: "Well Everton won't like that."
But this will not deter DIC from a plan to take over Gillett's 50 per cent share in Liverpool – when pre-emption rights preventing the sale expire – enduring Hicks for as long as they must and then attempting to force Hicks out of the club by putting up money for Liverpool's new stadium and challenging him to do the same. They believe he will be unable to do so.
Hicks told Sky Sports News that his plan is to buy out Gillett and remove the debt he and Gillett loaded on to the club. The inference was that he has minority shareholders ready to help. "I want to be the majority owner of a group that buys the club," he said.
Gillett in a statement: "I am saddened at this latest outburst from Tom Hicks. Tom needs to understand that I will not sell my shares to him."
Hicks' attempts to use the reportedly difficult relationship between Benitez and Parry to his own ends is discrediting him even more among fans. Gillett might be the co-owner who wants to cash in his shares and profit from Liverpool but the events of the past week have left him with far more credibility among fans.
The Texan's esteem took a further hit by revelations yesterday that he personally called the leader of a supporters' group trying to raise a petition to oust him. "He asked me what I was playing at," said John McCaffrey. "He was stuttering a bit at first."
Though the prospect of DIC part-ownership is now looming, their long-awaited involvement in the club will not bring an end to Liverpool's problems since they will be stuck with Hicks for the time being at least. That makes the prospect of Benitez calling it quits, after the Champions League campaign is over all the greater.
Parry must be wondering how much more severe the consequences of the club's decision to sell to the Americans can possibly get. "I have a duty at the moment to try and keep things on an even keel when there's turmoil off the pitch," he told the BBC yesterday.
In his interview, Hicks attempted to distance himself from the Klinsmann talks, insisting that he had to "look it up on the internet to see who he was" after Gillett had telephoned him to say: "Have your people do research on Jürgen Klinsmann."
"I was also taken aback by his version of the events as reported," continued Gillett's statement.
In an attempt to counter any suggestion that Parry was fulfulling contractual obligations by attending the owners' board meeting, he suggested Gillett – and not he – had set up a New York meeting and added: "I did go but Rick Parry had already met with Jürgen for three or four hours before we got there."