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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Liverpool takeover completed

American tycoons George Gillett and Tom Hicks have had their takeover of Liverpool rubber-stamped by the Stock Exchange on Tuesday morning.

An announcement released on behalf of Kop Football Limited confirmed the pair have reached an agreement to buy 98.6% of the club's shares. Under Stock Exchange rules the remaining shares can now be compulsorily purchased and Gillett and Hicks' offer is 'closed'. The announcement also confirmed the duo will seek to re-register the club as a private limited company (plc). Liverpool's board initially agreed to the takeover on February 6 after rejecting a rival bid from Dubai International Capital. Earlier this month Hicks and Gillett gained unconditional control of the club by passing the 80% threshold of share agreements, and today's announcement brings their takeover to a conclusion.

Meanwhile, a leading football financial analyst insists that the increasing trend of foreign investment within the Premiership could damage the long-term stability of the game should owners not 'commit the right resources to the business'.Several top-flight clubs are now in the hands of foreign investors, with American tycoons Tom Hicks and George Gillett the latest to buy into the Barclays Premiership following their takeover at Liverpool.Kroenke Sports Enterprise - backed by US billionaire Stan Kroenke - have a large portfolio of sports-related interests across the Atlantic, and there had been reports of a potential move for the purchase of ITV's 9.9% stake in Arsenal.

Although that has subsequently been dismissed by the American company, there is continued interest from overseas investors for a slice of the lucrative market for the Premiership, which now has a global appeal.The Premier League insist ensuring clubs are run properly, regardless of individual ownership, will always be the most important issue.Of course, foreign ownership in the English top flight is nothing new.Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al Fayed personally bankrolled Fulham's rise from the old Second Division to the Premiership, while an Icelandic consortium took control of troubled West Ham earlier this season.Wimbledon, though, saw their brief ownership by Norwegians end in relegation in May 2000 - and eventually a controversial move to Milton Keynes.The Premier League maintain that, provided the intentions of any new investors are sound, there should be no great cause for alarm.Vinay Bedi, football analyst at Brewin Dolphin, feels that is only a good thing when the football clubs are proving to be profitable ventures.He said: 'The obvious long-term danger would be they lose interest and do not commit the right resources to the business.'The clubs would then be left to fester under ownership who are not interested in them and have moved on to their next project.

'You could foresee one or two fire sales, where clubs are thrown into disarray as they pass to new opportunistic owners.'In the past, we have had quite a stable environment, but that is at risk in the long term if say, in 10 years time, revenues have dropped and the Sky TV packages are no longer as lucrative.'Arsenal currently have a 'strategic relationship' in place with Major League Soccer club Colorado Rapids - owned by KSE - which is primarily designed to help develop the Gunners' brand in America.Jurgen Mainka, senior director of communications and international business at Colorado Rapids, told PA Sport: 'At this point, there is no interest or intention from KSE in buying any shares or any pieces of Arsenal Football Club or any club in the English Premier League.'There certainly is no substance to these stories and rumours in the media which indeed started when we first announced our commercial relationship with Arsenal Football Club.'