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Ex-Liverpool Owners Fail to Overturn U.S. Suit Block

Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Former Liverpool owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks failed to overturn a court order restraining them from suing for damages in the U.S. over the forced sale of the soccer team.

Justice Christopher Floyd at the High Court in London said while the pair can file lawsuits seeking information in American courts, they must ask permission from a U.K. judge if they want to file any damage claims in their own country. Floyd’s October ruling cleared the way for the owners of the Boston Red Sox to buy the 18-time English champion for 300 million pounds ($484 million).

Floyd said there isn’t a “blanket prohibition on all conceivable actions, as the owners tend to suggest,” only a requirement that they ask the U.K. court before they file other actions abroad. Hicks and Gillett lost about $222 million on the forced sale.

Hicks and Gillett, who in 2007 bought the team via a 219 million-pound leveraged buyout, have called last year’s sale an “epic swindle” and claimed the team’s directors and lender Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc conspired against them. The duo filed a lawsuit in Texas to block the deal and sought $1.6 billion in damages. They later dropped the case when threatened with a U.K. contempt-of-court charge.

Hicks has said the team was worth as much as 800 million pounds and Forbes Magazine in April estimated its value at 533 million pounds.

Appeal Possible

Hicks and Gillett can appeal today’s ruling. It’s unclear whether they will.

Floyd also said former club chairman Martin Broughton and RBS could apply for a permanent declaration that the sale process was conducted fairly. Hicks and Gillett will have to file defenses against claim after the judge rejected their request to stop the action.

At a hearing last week, Richard Snowden, a lawyer representing RBS, said if Hicks and Gillett want to sue to recoup money, they should do so in the U.K.

“RBS isn’t seeking to stop Hicks, Gillett or any of their companies from suing,” Snowden said. “If they want to do so they are free to, provided they do it in this jurisdiction.”

Liverpool said in a statement today it was “delighted” with Floyd’s ruling “prohibiting the former owners from commencing legal actions” outside the European Union.

To contact the reporters on the story: James Lumley in London at jlumley1@bloomberg.net; Tariq Panja in London at at tpanja@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.

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