Liverpool tortured takeover battle ends

LONDON - Liverpool's tortured takeover battle ended on Friday with the owners of Major League Baseball's Boston Red Sox completing their 300 million pounds purchase of the Premier League club.

New England Sports Ventures (NESV) said the deal, welcomed by jubilant fans but dismissed as an "epic swindle" and "organised conspiracy" by ousted co-owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks, had eliminated all of the acquisition debt placed on the club by the American pair.

In what could be a major boost for the struggling Merseyside team's embattled manager Roy Hodgson, the new owners added that the club's debt servicing obligations had been slashed from between 25 and 30 million pounds a year to two to three.

"As any Liverpool fan knows, the most nerve-racking way to win is the penalty shootout," chairman Martin Broughton told a throng of reporters gathered outside the headquarters of a London law firm as he announced the change of ownership.

"But in the end, as long as you get the right result, it's worth the wait. We got the right result," added Broughton, who will stay on to oversee the transition.

However, Liverpool still face the prospect of a protracted legal battle after lawyers for Hicks and Gillett vowed to fight on "with all of their legal energies" in a claim for damages of $1.6 billion.

They also said they intended to return to the London High Court as part of that bid, with some analysts suggesting the legal battle could go on for years.

"Frankly, I think it's the beginning of a long book, rather than a final chapter," said Rick Horrow, a sports lecturer at Harvard Law School.

TEXAS BREAKTHROUGH

The day had started with a breakthrough in Texas, where a judge lifted a restraining order that had prevented NESV from going ahead with the deal on Thursday.

It ended with new owner John W Henry declaring himself proud and humbled with his purchase, telling the fans what they wanted to hear.

"We regard our role as that of stewards for the club with a primary focus on returning the club to greatness on and off the field for the long-term," he said.

"We are committed first and foremost to winning. We have a history of winning, and today we want (Liverpool) supporters to know that this approach is what we intend to bring to this great club."

Liverpool, the five-times European champions, are one of England's greatest clubs with a brand of global stature despite their last league title coming 20 years ago.

However, they have had a nightmare start to the season and are currently 18th in the 20-strong Premier League with just six points from their opening seven matches.

Speaking before the deal was confirmed, Hodgson said a cloud had been lifted.

"It's a very good day for the club," he told a packed news conference at the club's training ground. "It's a relief... it has been a very difficult couple of weeks... We've had to live through that bad time."

LOCAL DERBY

Friday's outcome, desired by so many Liverpool fans, will be especially welcome ahead of Sunday's local derby away to Everton, a hugely imp