US duo drop restraining order blocking Liverpool sale

Dallas: Tom Hicks and George Gillett withdrew their temporary restraining order on Friday that had threatened to block the sale of Liverpool football club to the owners of the Boston Red Sox for 476 million dollars.

But attorneys for Hicks and Gillett said they will pursue legal avenues to securing 1.6 billion dollars in damages they expect will result from the sale to New England Sports Ventures (NESV), which owns baseball`s Red Sox.

Liverpool officials made the deal over the objections of owners Hicks and Gillett, who say the club is undervalued at the sales price.

But the deal, and the withdrawing of the restraining order at an early morning hearing in Hicks`s Texas home area, will enable Liverpool to pay off its debtors without taking the team into administration.

That threatened to cost Liverpool nine points in the English Premier League standings, possibly forcing the team to be relegated and scuttling the deal.

Meanwhile, Hicks and Gillett will be going after money to recoup their losses in a legal fight that promises to drag on well into the reign of the new ownership.

"It’s an extraordinary swindle and it will result in exactly the wrong thing for the club and the fans," warned Steve Stodghill, the Texas lawyer representing Hicks and Gillett.

"This outcome not only devalues the club but it also will result in long-term uncertainty for the fans, players and everyone who loves this sport because all legal recourses will be pursued."

Royal Bank of Scotland, the club`s lender, had set a Friday deadline to have the ownership situation settled or risk taking the club into financial insolvency.

Liverpool directors decided on the sale to NESV rather than stick with the first set of American owners.

"Mr. Hicks and Mr. Gillett pledged to pay the debt to RBS so that the Club could avoid administration that was threatened by RBS. That offer was rejected," Stodghill said.

"It is a tragic development that others will claim as a victory. This means it won’t be resolved the way it should be resolved.”

"My clients worked tirelessly to resolve these issues but RBS would not listen to any reasonable solution and the directors acted selfishly and illegally."

The legality issues likely will not be decided until protracted litigation and appeals have run their course, with Hicks and Gillett having no other recourse and warning their moves will cause even more future uncertainty for the Reds and their Merseyside supporters.

"Mr. Hicks and Mr. Gillett wanted to position this club for the future, but others have a different agenda," Stodghill said.

"In truth, there is nothing positive from these events for Liverpool Football. That is exactly the opposite of what my clients wanted to achieve."

Liverpool supporters have protested with signs saying, "Tom and George Not Welcome Here" and complained as they watched the club, an 18-time English champion, become saddled with debt and this season launch its worst start since 1953.

Bureau Report