Aug. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Liverpool soccer club won’t be rushed into a quick sale even though the owners want to find a buyer “as soon as possible,” Managing Director Christian Purslow said yesterday.
The 18-time English champion’s American owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks, who put the team up for sale in April, are searching for a buyer who can pay off their 237 million-pound ($370 million) debt with Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, as well as fund a new stadium. RBS said it’s confident in the sale process and isn’t planning to take control of the club.
“We have had a number of bids for the club, we will take time to examine those extremely carefully” to ensure Liverpool finds a committed owner to secure its long-term future, Purslow told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek program yesterday. The aim is to “sell the club as soon as possible,” he said.
Chinese businessman Kenny Huang and Syria’s Yahya Kirdi are among bidders for the team, which hasn’t won a trophy since the F.A. Cup in 2006. Without discussing specific names, Purslow said there was no “front-runner” at the moment.
“We will make sure we take our time,” he said. “I am not going to put a time limit on it. The challenge now is to sort the wheat from the chaff. I would not expect it to be a lifetime, but I would not expect it to be tomorrow either.”
Purslow declined to comment on a report in yesterday’s Sunday Times that said RBS is preparing to take control of Liverpool as the search for a new owner fades.
Negotiations with several potential buyers failed after none could prove it had enough money, the newspaper said. Gillett and Hicks have until Oct. 6 to repay the RBS loan. The lender has set an unofficial deadline of the end of this month for Gillett and Hicks to find a credible bidder, the Times reported, citing people familiar with the talks.
“RBS continues to have confidence in the sale process and is making no preparations to take control of the club,” bank spokeswoman Claire Gorman said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
Jonathon Brill, a spokesman for Hicks and Gillett, didn’t return a phone call from Bloomberg News seeking comment.
Hicks and Gillett bought Liverpool in 2007 for 219 million pounds, including debt. The club finished seventh in the Premier League last season, its worst performance in 11 years, and didn’t qualify for this season’s Champions League. It began its league program with a 1-1 draw at home to Arsenal yesterday.
While it recruited Joe Cole and retained Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, Purslow confirmed there will be players leaving the team. They may include Argentina’s Javier Mascherano.
“There are a few people who will move on,” he said. “Javier has been wanting to go for personal reasons. We have not had any offers for him, and the manager (Roy Hodgson) is very happy with him, but it is true he is looking for a move.”
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