Vail’s Gillett, Liverpool FC set to split
VAIL – Former Vail ski company owner George Gillett and Liverpool Football Club could soon be done with each other.
Gillett and Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars owner Tom Hicks bought Liverpool Football Club in early 2007 for $450 million. Now they’re selling are selling it to John W. Henry’s Boston Red Sox holding company, New England Sports Ventures, for an estimated $467 million.
Gillett also owns the Montreal Canadiens.
Their Liverpool purchase was the first time two U.S. sports team owners have gone 50-50 in purchasing a sports team based overseas.
Gillett bought the Vail ski company in the late 1980s for $65 million. Under his ownership, Vail rose to become one of the premier ski resorts in North America and the world. Freefalling investments in the television industry and the collapse of the junk bond market forced him into bankruptcy a few years later. He lost the Vail ski company to Apollo Partners.
Gillett and Hicks began looking for a Liverpool buyer in April, as their own leveraged buyout began to unravel with a balloon payment coming due in the middle of this month. They have to restructure 280 million pounds in debt they owe to Royal Bank of Scotland or risk surrendering control of the club to the bank.
They’ve reportedly lost $222 million on their Liverpool excursion.
The $476 million purchase price will cover the debt they piled up , but nothing more, Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton said in an interview with the BBC.
“By removing the burden of acquisition debt, this offer allows us to focus on investment in the team,” Broughton said in a statement.
The Liverpool club’s board picked New England Sports Ventures over protests by Gillett and Hicks to block the sale. They claim its offer is too low. Hicks said earlier he expected Liverpool to sell for as much as 800 million pounds.
The offer was approved by the other three members of the club’s board, including Broughton.
Broughton said he was “disappointed that the owners have tried everything to prevent the deal from happening.
“They’ve invested about 140 million pounds of their own money in this and they’re losing it all,” Broughton said in an interview. “This was actually their last chance to leave Liverpool with their heads held high. The legacy has not been a healthy one. That they’ve chosen to go out in this manner I think is sad.”
Liverpool is one of England’s most successful and highest-profile clubs with 18 English Premier League titles. But this season the club is mired in its worst season since 1953 and the fan backlash has been brutal. One fan received a profanity-laced email from Hicks’ son.
Spokesmen for both Gillett and Hicks declined to comment.