Football - Liverpool FC: TOM HICKS has dampened hopes of a change of ownership at Liverpool before the start of the season – and claims the club is in a better shape than when he and George Gillett assumed control three years ago.
Hicks was responding to comments from former Anfield chairman David Moores, who yesterday urged the American duo to end their controversial reign as soon as possible.
In a 3,000-word open letter, Moores spoke for the first time how he “hugely regrets” allowing Hicks and Gillett to buy the club in February 2007 while admitting to failings in assessing the former’s suitability to invest.
Having been unable to raise the £100million required to begin construction of the proposed new stadium on Stanley Park, the Americans last month announced the intention to offload their entire stake at Anfield while appointing new chairman Martin Broughton to oversee the sale.
But hopes of new investment ahead of the summer transfer window appear to have been dashed given Hicks suggests there is no rush for an imminent sale of a club with an asking price of at least £600m – almost three times what the Americans paid to take the reins.
“We will sell the club,” said Hicks. “We are not going to sell it to the wrong group and we’re not going to sell it for the wrong price.
“We are going to take our time, do it in a very thoughtful way and try to find the right steward to own Liverpool FC. We’re hoping to sell before the end of the calendar year and we don’t anticipate it will be done before the beginning of next season.
“I think I have said £600m-800m is not an unrealistic value range but the market is the market and we’ll see.
“We’re more concerned about finding the right owner, someone who can make the investment in the club, get the stadium built and help Liverpool be the best possible football club in the world.”
One report in Dallas yesterday quoted Hicks as believing it may take up to 18 months for a suitable buyer to be found.
Hicks added: “We’re all disappointed where we finished this season, people forget that we almost won the league the year before, we had injuries, we had players perform below their levels and hopefully Rafa will get them right for next season.
“There has been so much misinformation put out by people who have their own agendas and that’s unfortunate but the truth is Liverpool is much better off than it was three years ago.
“I’m disappointed on a certain level that our efforts have not been received as well as I wish they would be.”
Hicks reiterated comments from chairman Broughton that Liverpool are under no obligation to sell leading players such as Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard.
However, his promise that “substantial” transfer funds are in place will have been observed with interest by manager Rafael Benitez, who has not yet been told how much he has to spend on players during the forthcoming transfer window.
“We have no intention of selling any of our top players,” said Hicks. “We have a substantial transfer budget in place. It is more than double what it was and we will make a significant investment this summer but it is more about getting the right players.”
Hicks also praised the performance of the current board and cited an increase in sponsorship revenue and transfer spending during his and Gillett’s tenure.
“I’m disappointed because I think we’ve done everything we can in so many years to improve the club in so many ways from the way it had been run before,” he said.
“We have a great management team led by Christian Purslow; the commercial director Ian Ayre has done a great job, we have a strong finance director in Philip Nash.“We’ve grown our sponsorships from £40m annually under the last years of Moores’ ownership and this year we’ll be doing close to £100m.
“Since Moores’s ownership, in the last three years with what we will spend this summer we will have more than doubled both the gross and net transfer spending on players. The new stadium is fully designed now and the global financing markets are back, so with the change of ownership coming we will be able to have a new stadium built and we have a great board.”