Liverpool battle returns to court

LONDON - Liverpool's takover saga resumed in London's High Court on Thursday, with the club's board seeking to overcome a restraining order on an agreed sale just as rival bidder Peter Lim announced he was pulling out.

A High Court ruling on Wednesday paved the way for Liverpool to be sold for 300 million pounds to New England Sports Ventures (NESV) before owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks obtained a temporary block in a Texas district court.

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Back to London came the lawyers representing Liverpool board members Martin Broughton, Ian Ayre and Christian Purslow and the club's chief creditor Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in an attempt to get past the American court ruling, which some English legal experts considered a stop-gap measure unlikely to last until its October 25 deadline.

The case got underway with considerably less fanfare than Wednesday's hearing in the same court 18, when supporters crowded for space with journalists and cheered the decision to allow the sale as if their club had ended their 20-year league title drought.

Less impressed with the club's determination to link up with the owners of the Boston Red Sox was Lim, who had bid 320 million pounds for the club after having originally offered the same amount as NESV.

"It has become clear to me that the Board is intent on selling the club to NESV to the exclusion of all other parties, regardless of the merits of their bids," Lim said in a statement.

"In these circumstances, I am not able to proceed with my intention to acquire the club."

Lim said his interest in buying Liverpool could be revived if "current events cause the circumstances to change."


RBS, seeking to recoup 240 million pounds in loans, were in the High Court seeking an anti-suit injunction to stop the owners continuing with legal action in Texas.

Legal opinion in the UK suggested the Texas court restriction might be overturned as soon as the court heard evidence from Liverpool's side, having made their decision purely on the evidence of Hicks and Gillett, who described the plans to sell the club as "an epic swindle" and who were seeking personal damages of $1.6 billion.

Graham Shear, a partner at Berwin Leighton Paisner, described the Texas ruling as a "fairly desperate bid by Hicks and Gillett to prevent the sale".

"It's a slightly bizarre occurrence and think it will disappear pretty quickly, probably within 24 hours," Shear told Reuters.

Already struggling third from last in the standings, Liverpool face city rivals Everton at Goodison Park in the Premier League on Sunday when their travails are certain to be the butt of the home fans' songs.