Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | September 28, 2009
Home : Sport
Saudi prince eyes half of Liverpool

A Saudi prince wants to buy half of Liverpool football club in a deal worth up to US$560 million that would mark the latest buy-in by Gulf investors in an English Premier League team.

But Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks is only willing to allow 25 per cent of the club to be sold, an executive familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The executive spoke on condition of anonymity because the club is not discussing the situation publicly.

Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Abdullah al-Saud, who is chairman of two investment firms and was at Anfield on Saturday for the 6-1 win over Hull, was quoted by the Saudi Al-Riyadh newspaper yesterday as saying that "we are seeking, at present, to own a 50 per cent stake in the club.

350 million transaction

"The value of the transaction, which is nearing resolution, will be between 200 million (US$320 million) and 350 million (US$560 million)," said the prince, who is chairman of Saudi holding company FAMA Group and the F6 sports investment firm.

The comments come on the heels of an F6 statement released Saturday that said Prince Faisal had signed a memorandum of understanding with one of Liverpool's American co-owners, George Gillett Jr, as well as Richard Petty Motorsports. That deal envisions, in part, setting up sports academies in the kingdom and the broader Gulf region.

The comments by Prince Faisal about acquiring half of Liverpool took the club by surprise.

Hicks, who owns half of 18-time English champion Liverpool with Gillett, is only prepared to sell a 25 per cent stake in the club to raise 100 million (US$159 million) and was not aware of the prince's claims, the executive familiar with the situation said.

245-million debt

Hicks has had investment bank Merrill Lynch scouring the Middle East for investors for more than a year to help find funds to reduce the club's debt and build a new stadium.

Gillett would not be able to act independently of Hicks and sell his 50 per cent stake without the permission of the Texan.

Hicks and Gillett have been looking to reduce Liverpool's 245-million debt.

They paid off 60 million (US$90 million) of the debt when the loan used to buy the club in 2007 expired in July.

Calls for comment from FAMA Group were referred to F6, which sent a general statement about the investment deal with Gillett.

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