Hicks and Gillett obtain restraining order

LONDON - Liverpool's bitter ownership wrangle rumbled into Thursday after George Gillett and Tom Hicks launched an 11th hour legal bid to stop the club being sold to Boston Red Sox owner John W Henry.

Weeks of bitterness appeared to be drawing to a close late on Wednesday after London's High Court ruled that Hicks and Gillett could not block the 300 million pounds sale of the club by sacking members of the board.

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However, with Henry having flown in to attend a meeting in London with Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton and other board members to finalise the deal, Gillett and Hicks issued a statement saying they had been granted a temporary restraining order by a Texas court prohibiting the sale of the club.

It poured cold water on the euphoric celebrations of Liverpool fans who had waited outside the High Court earlier on Wednesday, although the club later issued a statement saying it was determined to remove the latest obstacle.

"Following the successful conclusion of High Court proceedings today, the Boards of Directors of Kop Football and Kop Holdings met tonight and resolved to complete the sale of Liverpool FC to New England Sports Ventures," Liverpool's website said.

"Regrettably, Thomas Hicks and George Gillett have tonight obtained a Temporary Restraining Order from a Texas District Court against the independent directors, Royal Bank of Scotland PLC and NESV to prevent the transaction being completed.

"SITUATION IN FLUX"

"The independent directors consider the restraining order to be unwarranted and damaging and will move as swiftly as possible to seek to have it removed."

The court order may have also revived Singapore billionaire Peter Lim's hopes of buying the club after the tycoon made an increased 320-million pound offer.

"The situation is in flux, Peter is monitoring the latest developments. He remains interested in buying Liverpool Football Club," a spokesman for Lim told Reuters on Thursday.

Lim, 57, is the Southeast Asian city-state's eighth richest man with assets of $1.6 billion according to Forbes magazine.

Among a range of interests, he has exclusive rights to own and operate a chain of Manchester United-themed restaurants and bars in Asia, a connection that rankles Liverpool supporters.

A source close to the billionaire, who has a box seat at Old Trafford according to Singapore media, said if successful Lim would sell off his Manchester United interests to show his commitment to the Merseyside club and its supporters.

English football's most protracted and bitter takeover could still be completed by the time Liverpool face Everton on Sunday but the soap opera appears to be short of its conclusion, even as an October 15 deadline for the repayment of 200 million pounds of debts looms.

The NESV deal was to have cleared the path for the debts' repayment to major creditor Royal Bank of Scotland.

Failure to meet the Friday deadline could see the five-times European champions put into administration and docked nine points in the Premier League.

In a further twist, Hicks and Gillett said in a statement that they had filed a lawsuit against the club's lender Royal Bank of Scotland, Liverpool chairman Broughton and other board members, describing themselves as victims of an "epic swindle."

NEWS: Liverpool closer to sale with court win


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