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High Court says Liverpool sale can still go ahead

Justice Christopher Floyd at Britain’s High Court dismisses the Texan injunction: “This case has nothing to do with Texas.”

Tom Hicks (left) and George Gillett:
Tom Hicks (left) and George Gillett:
Image: Paul Thomas/AP

Updated 5:46pm

BRITAIN’S HIGH COURT has granted an anti-suit injunction which allows the club to proceed with its sale to New England Sports Ventures, and ending the ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett.

Representatives for the club’s board of directors and the Royal Bank of Scotland, the club’s biggest creditor, had sought the ruling after the club’s current owners went to an American court to secure their own injunction blocking the sale.

Hicks and Gillett now have until 4pm tomorrow, Friday, to comply with the new order – requiring them to withdraw their own injunction.

Today’s hearing followed a swift intervention from the Texas District State Court of Dallas County, which granted a temporary injunction to Hicks and Gillett stopping the board, RBS, or NESV from “taking any action to modify, pledge, sell, transfer, seize, foreclose or dispose of Plantiffs ownership in Liverpool FC”.

While the ruling does not totally finalise the deal – the Texan injunction still stands, so the matter is not totally resolved – the manner of Judge Floyd’s ruling, in which he said the Texan court had been given an “impoverished” description of the High Court’s own case, is an emphatic blow to Hicks and Gillett as they seek to stop the NESV bid, favouring alternative takeover options that would have made them more money.

Late-night drama

The injunction in Texas, signed by Judge Jim Jordan at 7:25pm British time last night, was enough to halt the NESV takeover which was otherwise set to be completed last night.

The club’s board of directors – which had been reconstituted by the High Court yesterday morning, when it had ruled that only club chairman Martin Broughton had the right to replace its membership – were set to formally ratify the sale to NESV, who had sent an upbeat founder John W Henry to London.

That board meeting began at 8pm, before word of the Texan injunction had come through. Hicks and Gillett had asked the court to delay their meeting until this morning – possibly hoping to have the court back in Dallas give its injunction in time – but were denied the request.

While the High Court was hearing the case for the second time in three days, the man behind the bid Hicks and Gillett are understood to favour – Peter Lim, of investment vehicle Meriton – said he was withdrawing his interest because the board (no doubt distracted by the court actions) had ignored his improved bid.

It was reported earlier in the day that Mill Financial – the body which had lent Gillett the cash for his half of the takeover, and which had assumed control of his share when he defaulted on repayments – had acquired Hicks’ share and repaid the RBS loan, though this was later dismissed.

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About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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