Liverpool Football Club, English football's most decorated club side, has brought an end to its long-running takeover saga by accepting a £470 million ($924 million; €714 million) bid from buyout veteran Tom Hicks and fellow US sports tycoon George Gillett.
Under the terms of the deal, Hicks and Gillett have committed to building a new £200 million stadium in nearby Stanley Park and financing player transfers, while assuming the club's £80 million debt. Current chairman David Moores will become honorary life president.
The new 60,000-seat stadium complex won planning permission in October 2004, but only remedial work has taken place to date. Hicks and Gillett have said work on the development should start soon. It will house a museum, cafe, tour center and shop as well as conferencing suites and offices for the club.
Hicks joined forces with Gillett in January, reportedly after meeting at an ice hockey game. Gillett owns the Montreal Canadiens, while Hicks owns the Dallas Stars, as well as the Texas Rangers baseball team. Hicks' expertise in building worldclass sports stadium was apparently highly attractive to Liverpool's board, which has been looking to finance a move away from the club's current Anfield stadium for two years. Hicks, who co-founded private equity firm Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, is currently investing via his family holding company Hicks Holdings.
The emergence of Hicks and Gillett averted a potential embarrassment for Liverpool, after Dubai International Capital pulled out of talks to buy the club. DIC had appeared to be the front-runner in the battle to take over Liverpool, but abruptly withdrew from negotiations last week after the board failed to approve its bid.
Liverpool will hope that the injection of US capital will help them compete with the top clubs in Europe, both on and off the field. The club has won more major domestic and European trophies than any other English team, but it has not won the English title for 17 years. It also lags behind the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United in terms of commercial revenues.
It is the third English football club to fall into US hands. The Glazer family bought current league leaders Manchester United in 2005, while Randy Lerner took control of perennial underachievers Aston Villa last year.
INREV man joins ATP
Ville Raitio, head of research at the European Association for Investors in Non-listed Real Estate Vehicles (INREV), has joined Danish pension fund giant ATP, which oversees assets of DKK 371.5 billion ($65 billion; €50 billion). Effective April 1, Raitio will join the fund's real estate team, where he will focus on European and American real estate funds. With Raitio's appointment, the pension fund will also continue its non-listed real estate investment program, said Michael Nielsen, chief executive officer of ATP Real Estate and INREV board member.
Halabi makes waves with flurry of deals
Simon Halabi, a Syrian-born billionaire property investor based in London, is reportedly closing in on a number of potential investments ranging from London property to UK health and fitness chain Esporta. The private investor was most recently linked with the purchase of Merrill Lynch's London office buildings, which are on the market for £600 million ($1.2 billion; €920 million). He is also close to finalizing details to buy Esporta for £460 million. At the same time, Halabi is rumored to be in the running to buy Ford's Aston Martin brand for approximately £450 million. He is also an investor in a property development dubbed “The Shard” at London Bridge station. Work on the 70-story structure, which will become Europe's tallest skyscraper when it is completed, is due to begin next year.
Composition adds US presence
Netherlands-based Composition Capital has hired Randy Parker, formerly of Beacon Capital Partners, to open a Boston office and expand the firm's investor base in the US, as well as create an Americas fund of funds. Parker has spent the past 10 years at Beacon Capital Partners, where he was a senior managing director responsible for the financial and strategic functions of the firm. Prior to joining Beacon, he was senior vice president at AEW Capital Management.
Zara man plots residential spree
Amancio Ortega, the chairman of Spanish fashion group Inditex, which owns retail chain Zara, has reportedly set up Azora Europa to invest €1 billion ($1.3 billion) primarily in residential property developments in Eastern Europe. Through his private investment vehicle Ponte Gadea, Ortega is partnering with around 20 Spanish groups to target Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Harbert appoints head of new Madrid office
The European arm of Harbert Management has opened an office in Madrid, adding to its London office, which was opened in 1999, to manage its European fund business. Roque Rotaeche, formerly institutional investment director with Richard Ellis in Spain, has joined Harbert as a principal and will be responsible for the firm's investments in Iberia. Alabama-based alternatives investor Harbert has two pan-European property vehicles.
French REIT in €14bn Italian acquisition
Fonciere des Regions, the French REIT in which GE Real Estate is a 12 percent shareholder, is taking over Italian listed property company Beni Stabili to create a real estate firm with €14 billion ($18 billion) of assets in Italy, France and Germany. Groupe Fonciere, whose market capitalization is €4.6 billion, currently manages nearly €10 billion of office, logistics, hospitality, leisure, health, residential and parking properties in France and Germany. Beni Stabili owns €4.2 billion of assets in Italy. Both are major players in sale and leaseback deals. Assuming the deal completes, GE will retain a similar shareholding in the larger group.
Merrill Lynch increases presence in Turkey
Merrill Lynch is stepping up its acquisition program in Turkey with a deal to buy the remaining 50 percent in the Neo Shopping Center, Eskisehir. Merrill bought a half share in the property for €27 million ($35 million) in October via Bosphorus Real Estate, which is a joint venture with Krea Real Estate Holdings. In related news, Merrill officially opened an office in Istanbul last month.
Gherkin sold for €911m
30 St Mary Axe, the famous London skyscraper better known as the “Gherkin,” has been sold for £600 million ($1.2 billion; €911 million) to German property firm IVG Immobilien and private investment bank Evans Randall. Evans Randall, the London-based investment and finance house, is taking a 50 percent stake in the building. IVG reportedly won an auction to buy the property at the end of last year but brought in Evans Randall to help finance the deal. Over the past 18 months, Evans Randall has built up a real estate portfolio worth £2 billion.
Apollo mulls €1.4bn Countrywide offer
US firm Apollo is reportedly considering a bid for British estate agency Countrywide for approximately £1 billion ($1.9 billion; €1.4 billion). Last month, UK listed private equity firm 3i failed to buy the company in a £971 million management-backed buyout. Countrywide is the UK's largest estate agency. Reports suggest that Apollo has hired Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse to advise on a bid.
Niam, Goldman acquire €400m Finland portfolio
Niam Nordic Investment Fund III and the Goldman Sachs-managed Whitehall Street Real Estate Funds have snapped up a property portfolio of 43 assets from Finnish real estate investment company Sponda for €402 million ($525 million). The properties were part of the so-called Kapiteeli portfolio of Finnish properties acquired by Sponda from the Finnish government in December and are predominantly located outside Finland's largest cities. The disposal is part of Sponda's strategy to sell non-core properties in order to refinance the acquisition debt from the Kapiteeli portfolio.