Across the Pond: The Fight For the Liverpool FC

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Ria Tessia is our British correspondent. Twice a month, she brings us updates on culture across the pond.

What has been your biggest extravagance to date? We’re generally a little more prudent with our spending in this somewhat uncertain economic climate. Not everyone is being cautious. Next time you think about buying that pair of Louboutin’s that you just can’t afford, don’t feel too guilty. Allow your mind to wander from those coveted shoes to John W. Henry, who is imminently due to spend £300K ($478K) on a single purchase. Money of this kind is small change to Henry, co-founder and principal owner of New England Sports Ventures and parent company of Boston Red Sox baseball team. Granted, Henry is a billionaire and you’re probably, well, not. That does not detract from him using his acute business acumen to spot an investment opportunity (any excuse to shop I say).

In the world of football, David Beckham is an international soccer superstar and undoubtedly one of Britain’s most famous exports. Up until now. If the name isn’t familiar yet, get ready to hear more about Liverpool FC, one of the most prestigious football clubs in English history and one that Henry is in the frame to buy.

Boasting the unenviable title of most successful club in the history of English football with enough trophy silverware to fill your Mom’s cabinet ten times over, Liverpool FC has fallen on hard times. Now debt-ridden and a mere pawn in the soap opera that has been unfolding over the past week, its ownership is under scrutiny as its present owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillet refuse to sell.

The now acrimonious relationship between Liverpool FC and Hicks and Gillet is being played out in the full glare of the insatiable media. Currently involved in a legal battle, Hicks and Gillet display the maturity of a spoilt, chastised ten year old who refuses to see the obvious and graciously concede defeat.

Since buying the club in 2007, they have squandered their investment, seen the club depreciate in value, saddle it with gargantuan debt and are consequently facing renewed criticism to sell. Once the jewel in the crown of Liverpool FC, Hicks and Gillet are now two thorns in the clubs side that refuse to be dislodged. Like a messy marriage, the relationship has been fraught with tension throughout. One side (namely Hicks and Gillet) have not lived up to their side of the bargain, and despite Liverpool wanting to break away to pastures new, like a jealous lover, they stubbornly refuse to move on or sell. The mantra for Hicks and Gillet appears to be ‘until death do us part’, as they contest to the bitter end, the upcoming sale of their club. Hicks and Gillet need to let go, move on (with some dignity) and let Henry take ownership.

Under Henry, the future for Liverpool looks promising. When NESV bought the Boston Red Sox in 2002, it cleared the club’s debt and heavily invested in its players (the team is now the tenth most valuable brand in world sport according to Forbes). Henry has recognized the potential of Liverpool FC, which has a growing global fan base and an increasing following in the US. He recognizes the importance of the view of the fans. With the spotlight on Anglo-US relations and another ‘special relationship’ in the offing, I look forward to seeing Henry work his magic on Liverpool FC. I wish Henry the very best in his new venture.