Of all the recent potential buyers of Liverpool F.C., it would take some doing to introduce one scarier than Patriotic blowhard Robert Kraft or alleged slave-trader Sheikh Mohammed Maktuom. And with all due respect to those esteemed gentlemen, it looks like the Reds have managed to outdo themselves, as the latest buyers might be a partnership between the man who gave Chan Ho Park $65 million and a guy with his own spotty business history. From the Independent’s Nick Harris and Andy Hunter.
George Gillett Jr, the prospective owner of Liverpool, has a spectacular bankruptcy on his CV, which involved the collapse of his business empire in 1992 with debts of $1bn (£508m), and led to a personal bankruptcy to the tune of $66.2m, The Independent can reveal.
Gillett, 68, said at the time that he had “caused the problem” that led to the downfall of his Gillett Holdings firm, because of an ” error in judgement and timing” about a major investment, in that case in a Florida television station.
But sources close to Gillett, who is now in pole position to take over at Anfield, perhaps within days following Wednesday’s shock withdrawal of Dubai International Capital’s firm pledge of £450m investment, insist the entrepreneur is the right man to take Liverpool forward.
Reports in America yesterday suggested Gillett may buy Liverpool with Tom Hicks, the Dallas businessman who owns the Texas Rangers baseball franchise.
“Gillett is a serious investor with a good track record,” a source in his camp said. Since his 1990s downfall, the American has rebuilt his empire and is estimated to have a personal fortune of £440m.
Gillett has not made public how he intends to pay for his proposed £170m buyout, write off debts of £80m, pay for a £200m new stadium or fund transfers. “But if you’re asking whether this a majorly debt-driven venture, then no,” the source claimed. “It is not a Glazer-type deal.”
Without providing any details or breakdown, the Gillett source said Gillett had given written assurances to the Liverpool board that he would indeed pay for the new stadium, and provide funds for the future.
Gillett has hired the bankers Rothschild to handle his offer. A banking source said last night: “There’s less stigma attached to bankruptcy in America. Chapter 11 [protective bankruptcy proceedings, which Gillett went through] are viewed as a normal route out for business collapses.”
Liverpool fans may take some persuading, especially as DIC seemed to have produced an attractive offer that guaranteed a stadium and hefty transfer funds. DIC pulled out after learning that what it thought were ” exclusive” negotiations with Liverpool had been widened to allow the Gillett offer to be heard.
Liverpool’s chief executive, Rick Parry, who on 14 January was singing DIC’s praises and saying he was “confident” that that deal was imminent, sought yesterday to calm supporters’ fears. “The overriding message is, ‘Don’t worry’,” he said. “Whatever decision is finally taken will be done so in the best interests of Liverpool Football Club… We had a duty as directors to consider a very interesting bid from George Gillett.”
It is not known how much Liverpool know about Gillett’s previous business failure, nor whether they consider it relevant. Gillett’s only other sports interest is as owner of the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens.