Business

Liverpool: A frustrating goalless game

BBC business editor Robert Peston on the Liverpool takeover

It's been on my mind to point out that although there may be a rational argument for placing the holding companies of Liverpool Football Club into administration, that may be technically impossible as of this moment.

How so?

Well, the restraining order issued by the court in Dallas on Wednesday contains the following clause:

"The defendants and their offices, agents, servants, employees and attorneys are temporarily enjoined from... taking any action to modify, pledge, sell, transfer, seize, foreclose or dispose of Plaintiffs' ownership in Liverpool FC."

So although today is the day in which Royal Bank of Scotland has said it wants its £240m (plus penalty charges) of debt repaid, on pain of placing LFC's holding companies into administration, as of now RBS can't actually exercise the threat of administration under UK insolvency procedures.

In other words, the Dallas court has castrated both Royal Bank of Scotland, as creditors of LFC, and New England Sports Ventures, deemed by the British courts to be the new contractual owners of LFC.

Which is messy, to put it mildly.

And here's another bit of messiness.

Let's say, as per David Bond's note of this morning, that one of the current co-owners, Tom Hicks, sells his shares to Mill Financial and persuades Mill Financial to hand over £200m-plus to repay the debts owed to Royal Bank and Wachovia.

Now if the money is wired to RBS from Mill Financial, RBS can refuse to see it as a wiping out of Mr Hicks' debts.

But if Mill Financial transfers the money first to Mr Hicks, Mill Financial is taking something of a risk, unless Mr Hicks transfers very substantial collateral to Mill.

It looks to me as though stalemate still characterises the current state of play - which is why so much hinges on whether the Texas court at 0700 local time (1300 UK time) lifts the restraining order and would therefore allow either the sale of LFC to NESV to be completed or RBS to put the business into administration.

Update 1305: So Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett have surrendered the restraining order, and the basic principle that national laws apply in property cases lives to fight another day.

Phew. I was beginning to worry that the Liverpool takeover spat was infecting and undermining the tenets of capitalism.

So where next?

Well the Red Sox owner, NESV, is racing to complete legal niceties so that it can transfer 200m squids to Royal Bank of Scotland and call it a deal.

But no-one thinks Mr Hicks has chucked in the towel - and there is a widespread assumption that he will somehow magic up £200m from Mill Financial to pip NESV to the post.

I would find this a preposterous notion, were it not that so much that has happened in this tussle has defied belief.

Update 1601: So it's all over. NESV is now the proud owner of Liverpool FC.

It would all feel like something of an anti-climax, if the previous owners weren't planning to sue Royal Bank of Scotland and the club for around £1bn.‬‪

You can keep up with the latest from business editor Robert Peston by visiting his blog on the BBC News website.

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