A new era began at Anfield last week as NESV completed their takeover but there were no signs of change on the pitch, after Liverpool were soundly beaten 2-0 by Everton in the Merseyside derby to put more pressure on under-fire Roy Hodgson.
With new owner John W. Henry watching on from the director’s box at Goodison Park, goals from Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta laid bare the uncomfortable truth about Liverpool’s rapid decline.
A tumultuous week for the club saw at least one victory as Henry,
owner of the American baseball franchise the Boston Red Sox,
and his consortium the New England Sports Ventures (NESV)
took control of Liverpool for £300 million, after former owners
Tom Hicks and George Gillett failed to block the sale of the club
at the High Court in London.
“I am proud and humbled. I can't tell you how happy I am. We're
here to win," said Henry. "There's a lot of work to be done to get
this club to where it needs to be in the grand scheme of things
but we're going to be attacking this head-on."
Henry grew up in a farming family in Arkansas and built his
fortune on futures trading, predicting market trends in the
agricultural business in the 1980s.
He quickly built a reputation as a businessman of some repute
and alongside NESV, his holding company bought up an ailing
Red Sox team, who hadn’t won the World Series in 86 years.
Henry spent vast sums on player purchase and development,
with the franchise being second only to the New York Yankees
in terms of expenditure.
Hodgson is believed to have £25 million available to spend in
the January transfer window, the sum being what the club will save on interest payments this year now the debt has been eradicated.
The Red Sox clinched World Series titles in 2004 and 2007, having not won it since 1918. Henry also set about refurbishing a decrepit Fenway Park into a modern stadium, something which earned him the gratitude of Red Sox fans that hold Fenway Park in similar esteem as Liverpool supporters hold Anfield.
It is a similar dilemma to that which he faces at Liverpool, whether to build a new stadium on the proposed Stanley Park site or look at ways of expanding the current 45,000 capacity and improving corporate facilities at Anfield.
Henry said: "We have to listen, learn, talk to the community, talk to the council, and talk with the supporters But the biggest issue of all is really what makes the most sense for Liverpool, long term."
The rest of the NESV hierarchy consists of Tom Werner, a media mogul and friend of former US President Bill Clinton, and Larry Lucchino, CEO of the Red Sox, and regarded as one the finest lawyers in America.
Chaos at the High Court
In what was a dramatic week even by Liverpool’s recent standards,
chairman Martin Broughton, who had repeatedly called for fans to
“keep the faith”, emerged victorious on Wednesday morning.
Mr. Justice Floyd ruled against Hicks' and Gillett’s legal challenge
that any sale was illegal as the duo had ‘removed’ board members
managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian
Ayre from their posts, rendering their vote on the sale of the club
The case was thrown out on grounds that under the six-month
extension that borrowers Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) granted the Americans in April this year, in order to repay the £287 million loan against the club or find buyers, only Broughton, the independent chairman of the reconstituted five-man board, had the power to make board changes.
In a shock twist, Hicks had temporarily gained an injunction from a Texan court to further halt the sale of the club to NESV after the High Court in London’s original ruling. The stalling tactic was directly aimed at RBS and NESV who had the prospect of having their US assets frozen if they ignored the order.
The injunction was lifted on Friday, with Hicks and Gillett now pondering their next move, which is thought to include seeking legal damages for over $1.6 billion from RBS, NESV and the independent members of the Liverpool board who oversaw the sale. Hicks described the sale as an “epic swindle” and one that significantly undervalues the club, claiming that he knew of more suitable investors.
By John Piper, Sports Editor
Hicks and Gillett have finally left Anfield; YouTube: John W Henry speaks to the press after High Court chaos
HICKS & GILLETT'S LIVERPOOL HISTORY
Pic © Trinity Mirror
Pic © Trinity Mirror
Pic © Trinity Mirror
Video contains flash photography
Drama at the High Court