American duo buys Liverpool

After paying £470m for the club, George Gillett and Tom Hicks are prepared to build a new stadium for Liverpool.

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.

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