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John Henry: We’d be stealing Liverpool FC

Broughton Purslow

Court transcript excerpts from the ongoing legal battle of MILL FINANCIAL, LLC vs. JR,;GILLETT, GEORGE N, which relates to the sale of Liverpool Football Club to Fenway Sports Group (formerly NESV) in 2010, show that FSG’s John Henry wasn’t keen on the idea of buying the Reds but he soon realised that FSG would be “stealing” the club if they could buy it so cheap.

In a number of emails exchanged by FSG’s top brass in 2010, snippets from Henry include: “I was not in favor of this deal prior to the meeting. I’m still not in favor. However, I am interested now in trying to ascertain if this is indeed a major opportunity that would indeed diversify and strengthen NESV.”

In another email Henry states: “I don’t want to say this beyond this small group, but if we could acquire this (Liverpool Football Club) for the debt, I really feel like we would be stealing this franchise.”

Court StatementCommenting in relation to building a new stadium, he said: “If you go through all of the pictures and virtual tour of the stadium, I don’t see a need to move out yet … it could be reconfigured to add premium seating probably and losing some seats to that might make sense, but the real money here is internationally including the website.”

“This could be a steal,” added Henry. “Every buyer believes what potential Red Sox buyers believed — you have to build a new stadium. And they believe the stadium will cost more than 350m pounds – $500mm!”

Other bidders for the club at the time claim they were frozen out of talks or ignored.

Billionaire Peter Lim, who later went on to buy La Liga outfit Valencia, said at the time: “I have tried to engage constructively with the board and RBS based on an offer, funded from my existing resources, providing greater value for Liverpool Football Club, more cash for players, full repayment of all bank debts and a long-term personal commitment to build a better future for the club and its supporters.

The board and RBS have chosen not to respond or to discuss my offer with me. My representatives even offered to meet the board last night. This was ignored, although NESV was invited to attend that meeting.

“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.

“In these circumstances, I am not able to proceed with my intention to acquire the club. If current events cause the circumstances to change, my interest in acquiring the club remains.

“I would, however, extend my very best wishes to Liverpool Football Club, the staff and players, and the fans, who really deserve better than this.

“I hope the club now moves towards realising its potential and achieves success on the pitch.”

Court statements seem to back up Lim’s claims that others were also obstructed when trying to discuss a potential purchase.

The following communication with Ron Devine of Mill Financial who also tried to buy the club is an example a number of bidders who expressed frustration during the bidding process.

From: Baptista, Jr., Robert C.
Sent: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 9:30 AM (GMT)
To: Ron Devine
Cc: Scott Gunderson ; Rylko, Kristin M.

Subject: REFO0I 7727 Liverpool


You may have seen the reply from Nigel Boardman of Slaughter & May (acting for Liverpool FC’s sale). I promptly called Nigel and had a very frustrating discussion.

His basic message was that if my client wanted to have a proposal to purchase Kop considered by the Board, the proposal had to be submitted today.

I asked why a proposal was necessary today when you were meeting with Martin Broughton on Thursday. His response was “Mr. Broughton’s plans change.”

I pointed out that it was difficult to put together a proposal at 4 in the morning when my client was asleep. His response was that he was not responsible for my client’s nocturnal habits and, in any event, Barclays had made it clear to you that you needed to send in a proposal today.

The board meeting is scheduled for 3:30 London time.

Perhaps this is all a bluff, or perhaps another proposal is on the table for consideration. In any event, I will not leave the office until I hear from you (but you may have to call a few times before the phone wakes me up).

Robert C. Baptista Jr.
Mayer Brown LLP

A letter sent on behalf of another bidder by email to Slaughter & May, that is filed amongst thousands of pages of court documents, also claimed of problems reaching Broughton and Co.:

‘As you know we act for Menton incubator Ltd (“Menton”) and Mr Peter Lim. Our clients’ wish is to engage constructively with yours in the sale process and that their bid be fairly and properly considered. If that does not happen, then it is right that your clients are aware of our clients’ position and the strength of their views. Our clients are disappointed that there has been no response to the letter written on their behalf by Wong Partnership LLP dated 10 October 2010.’

Here’s some snippets from a statement taken from Ronald Devine (Mill Financial) from last year on 29th October 2015 for the ongoing case:

9. In connection with Mill’s September 24, 2010 letter of intent (“LOI”) to purchase LFC, I requested exclusivity and confidentiality as just a few bargaining positions. I requested that the LOI not be shared with anyone other than RBS and the Chairman of LFC, Martin Broughton, because I was concerned about leaks to the media, which had occurred with prior LFC bidders. Ultimately, I did not pursue exclusivity.

10. While Mill did not begin due diligence until the latter stages of the LFC sales process, Mill had been kept apprised of the financials of LFC and related matters as a lender to Gillett Football, LLC, Mr. Gillett’s affiliate. As such, Mill already had access to much of the diligence material that potential bidders with no relationship to LFC did not have access to.

11. After I submitted the LOI to Mr. Broughton, we confirmed an in-person meeting in the Washington, D.C. area for October 8, 2010. That meeting never occurred. No one contacted me, including Mr. Broughton, to cancel that meeting.

12. After I submitted the LOI, I was never asked to increase Mill’s offer, nor was I told that there were higher offers for LFC. Similarly, Mill was never contacted after it submitted a revised bid on October 12, 2010 pursuant to which Mill offered to pay £10 million more than the highest offer for LFC up to £385 million.

KOPTALK has spent more than a week examining thousands of pages of documents from 2010 until the current date. Our opinion so far is that Broughton and Co. wanted to sell as quickly as possibly to avoid the 9 point penalty deduction that would come from administration (this is mentioned repeatedly). Claims that are often made that there were no other bidders is untrue. While there are bound to have been some jokers, court claims confirm to us at least, that there were other offers, so the myth that there was nobody else, can finally be put to bed. However, Broughton and Co. clearly favoured FSG (NESV) because of their sporting background. It seems apparent to us that FSG were helped over the line by those involved in the sale of the club hence the legal battle that continues.

Why are we mentioning it now? Well the court case is ongoing. Some of the documents relate to 2010 and we’ve seen some, but not all of them, in the past. However there are recent interviews that shed more light on things. Martin Broughton for example was interviewed only last year for the case and 5 years on in his videotaped deposition he revealed several things about the sale.

While we desperately want FSG to succeed as owners of Liverpool Football Club, we’re tired of hearing that they “saved” us and that there was nobody else to sell to. Some of the insight and behind the scenes communications is of great interest to us and we know many of you will share that opinion. Who wouldn’t want to read the emails of Liverpool FC officials or the messages exchanged by FSG discussing whether or not to leak snippets to the media. We find it of interest and after making bold claims about who we said was interested in buying the club, to see if finally confirmed in court papers is rather satisfying.

The KOPTALK editor will begin going over the various documents on KOPTALK.TV, our free YouTube channel, from tomorrow for you. We have also posted stacks of information on the members’ website including confirmed and named interest from the UAE, Qatar etc. None of this is speculation, it’s detailed in court documents filed over the last year or so. Feel free to join the discussion on the members’ website or follow KOPTALK.TV, over the coming week.

One thing we will point out though, we’re not experts. We’re not legal beagles. We’re football fans. We will disclose the ins and outs and you can decide without our influence, what seems legit so you can form your own opinions.

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