Liverpool agrees out-of-court settlement with former owners

Former LFC owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett agree settlement with club.
Former LFC owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett agree settlement with club. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Liverpool have pulled out of a court battle with former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett over the sale of the club in 2010.

The Americans were unhappy with the way a sale to Fenway Sports Group (then New England Sports Ventures) was concluded by Sir Martin Broughton, Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre, who were respectively Liverpool chairman, managing director and commercial director at the time.

Hicks and Gillett then made a number of claims and allegations against the trio, which were all denied, and resulted in legal proceedings.

But all parties have come to a confidential agreement which has resulted in all allegations being withdrawn and the court case being concluded.

A club statement read: "In October 2010, Liverpool Football Club and Athletic Grounds Limited (Liverpool FC) was sold to the Fenway Sports Group.

"As a consequence of that sale, Thomas Hicks and George Gillett (being the former owners of Liverpool FC) made a number of allegations and claims against Sir Martin Broughton, Christian Purslow and Ian Ayre (being the company directors responsible for the sale of Liverpool FC to the Fenway Sports Group).

"Those allegations and claims were denied by Messrs Broughton, Purslow and Ayre.

"The allegations, claims and denials resulted in legal proceedings being commenced.

"The parties have now agreed a settlement (the terms of which are confidential).

"All claims and allegations made against Messrs Broughton, Purslow and Ayre have been withdrawn by Messrs Hicks and Gillett and all legal proceedings between the parties concluded."

Hicks and Gillett came under increasing pressure from creditors Royal Bank of Scotland to expedite the sale of the club in 2010 and Broughton was brought in to lead the process.

However, when he, Purslow and Ayre outvoted Hicks and Gillett on the decision to sell to FSG, the Americans tried to reconstitute the board and sack Purslow and Ayre.

That failed as Hicks and Gillett were deemed to be in breach of an agreement with RBS which permitted Broughton to lead the sale process and make decisions as to the composition of the boards.

In the spring of 2012 Hicks and Gillett took their case against Broughton, Purslow and Ayre - and RBS - to court, alleging that they conspired to sell the club at a reduced price.

They claimed RBS and the Liverpool directors had deliberately blocked their attempts to refinance, allegations denied by RBS.

But after a lengthy and involved process led by Liverpool's general counsel Natalie Wignall, a deal was struck to bring an end to the legal action against Broughton, Purslow and Ayre.

At a High Court hearing in October, Mr Justice Peter Smith said it was a matter which ought to go to trial.

He said: "There is in my mind a question as to whether or not RBS truly distanced itself from the sale process."

"In reality, what actually happened between April 2010 and October 2010 can only be discerned by a trial when the relevant players give evidence and their evidence is tested by cross-examination in the light of the contemporaneous documents.

"In my view, it would be wrong and a denial of justice potentially at this preliminary stage to deny the former owners an opportunity to have a trial on this issue.

"This matter should be brought to a speedy conclusion.

"I would wish directions to be agreed if possible with a view to this action... being heard early in 2013."

RBS confirmed it too had settled with Hicks and Gillett, bringing an end to all outstanding claims by the Americans in this country.

"All claims and allegations against RBS arising out of the sale process have been withdrawn (and will not be repeated) by Messrs Hicks and Gillett and as a consequence all legal proceedings between the parties have been concluded," said a statement from RBS.

"The parties have agreed a settlement (the terms of which are confidential)."

Purslow, who stepped down from his managing director role at the club a couple of weeks after FSG took over, expressed his pleasure at the conclusion to the matter.

"I am delighted we can finally close this traumatic chapter in the history of Liverpool FC," he said.

"I was brought in to fix the financial crisis at the club by leading the search for new owners and that is precisely what I did.

"I would particularly like to thank Sir Martin Broughton for agreeing to come to our club to lead our board at a difficult time, all my fellow Liverpool supporters, members of LFC staff and the entire football family for their unwavering support and the solidarity shown to me during my time at Liverpool - especially over the past two and a half years since I stepped down."