Judge backs RBS in Liverpool battle

LONDON - Premier League side Liverpool inched closer to a sale on Wednesday when a High Court judge ruled against their unpopular American owners and backed the club's board and its right to negotiate a deal.

The ownership battle engulfing one of the world's most famous sporting institutions ended up in court after owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett tried to sack members of the board last week in a last ditch bid to keep control of the club.

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The board were in the process of agreeing a 300 million pound sale to New England Sports Ventures (NESV), the owner of the Boston Red Sox, ahead of an October 15 deadline to repay over 200 million pounds worth of debt.

Justice Floyd told a packed court that Hicks and Gillett had been guilty of the "the clearest possible breach" in terms of corporate governance rules and their bid to sack the board.

The judge spoke for around an hour in his summing-up.

The Liverpool board including Gillett and Hicks would meet later on Wednesday to consider its next move following the judgment, lawyers on all sides and the judge agreed.

Justice Floyd said the current owners had the right to attend but not to veto any sale.

BOARD RE-SITS

Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton told Sky Sports News after the hearing that he was "disappointed" that Gillett and Hicks had tried to breach the undertakings he said it had given him.

"When you go to court you can never pre-judge the outcome."

He continued: "The board has to be reconstituted and then re-sit this evening. I can't pre-judge what the board is going to say.

"It will be inappropriate to pre-judge what the board's going to say."

If the repayment date with major creditor the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is missed, the five-time European champions and England's most successful football club could be put into administration and docked nine points.

Lawyers for Hicks and Gillett admitted to a similarly packed London court room on Tuesday that the two men had breached their contract with RBS by trying to reshape the board but said they had been forced to do so because those members were not considering alternative offers.

The two men argued they should be given more time to find a better offer.

A second, higher bid emerged on Tuesday when Singapore billionaire Peter Lim said he was ready to make an increased cash bid for the club of 320 million pounds.

Lawyers for Hicks and Gillett told the court a third group, Mill Financial, had also shown an interest in the Merseyside club.