Court rules against Hicks and Gillett | Barclays Premier League | Football update
Liverpool’s American owners were strongly condemned in the High Court for taking action in the US courts to try to block the sale.
Mr Justice Floyd criticised Tom Hicks and George Gillett as he granted anti-suit injunctions in a bid to nullify decisions taken in the court in Dallas.
The judge said he had given a ruling in London on Wednesday that meant the English directors of Liverpool could agree a £300million takeover by John W Henry’s New England Sporting Ventures (NESV).
But before the board could make any decision last night, Tom Hicks, one of the American owners, secured a temporary restraining order from the Texas court.
Mr Justice Floyd said that, on the face of it, that amounted to “unconscionable conduct on the part of Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett”.
Mr Justice Floyd said his mandatory orders were not aimed at the Texas court but Hicks and Gillett to stop them taking further action there and to nullify any orders obtained in Dallas.
David Chivers QC, who told the judge that his clients, NESV, already considered themselves the new owners of Liverpool, asked the judge for a speedy serving of his orders on Hicks and Gillett so the deal with NESV can be completed and money transferred from the US.
He said if the deal was not completed tomorrow, then Hicks and Gillett had succeeded in stopping the sale of Liverpool before repayment of the debt to RBS became due.
The judge gave Hicks and Gillett until 4pm on Friday to comply with his orders.
The Royal Bank of Scotland, the club’s main creditor, had won the injunctions on Wednesday that would have meant they would be paid back a £200million loan which becomes due for settlement on Friday.
Richard Snowden QC, for the bank, said there were no legal representatives for Hicks and Gillett in court on Thursday although they had been informed of the latest move.
Mr Snowden said they had been forced to act because of “extraordinary events” following the High Court ruling.
He said the American owners had complied with the orders to restore the original directors of the Liverpool board but at the same time had launched a US action.
“About five minutes before before the board was due to commence the meeting at 8.30pm, solicitors for the companies were informed that relief had been obtained from a judge in Texas, purportedly on behalf of the three English companies (which control Liverpool).
“The Texas court seems to have been told remarkably little about the proceedings in this court.”
He said the US court had also allowed an injunction to stop RBS exercising its right to recall its loan.
“This is the most outrageous abuse of process.”
He said Hicks and Gillett had agreed for the sale process to continue in compliance with the order of the High Court and then they had taken action in the US in defiance of Mr Justice Floyd’s “clearly expressed intention”.
“The proceedings in Texas are plainly inappropriate. This dispute involves an English football club and three English companies and has no connection with Texas other than that Hicks and Gillett may reside there.
“It is a plain attempt to frustrate and impede the proceedings.”
He said the American owners had made “scurrilous allegations” against RBS in the Texas court which had no basis in fact.
Mr Snowden said granting anti-suit injunctions always ran the risk of an affront to a foreign court.
“But it is apparent the US judge himself was aware that what he was being asked to do might cause some ruffling of feathers in this jurisdiction.”
Mr Snowden told the judge that today – “at this moment” – Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett were applying in Texas for an order that yesterday’s board meeting in the UK was “a contempt of the Texas court”.
All the legal proceedings launched by Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett in the US were “in clear contempt of your lordship’s judgment”.
Their allegations that they were the victims of an “epic swindle” and “grand conspiracy” over Liverpool FC were “wild and scurrilous” assertions with no evidence to support them, said Mr Snowden.
Allegations that RBS was using its worldwide reputation as a banking leader to prevent any transaction that would permit Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett to recover any of their initial investment in the club was “absolutely poppycock”.
Lord Grabiner QC, representing the Liverpool companies, revealed the board on Wednesday night approved the sale of the club to NESV by three votes to two.
“We say the proceedings brought in Dallas are abusive, vexatious and oppressive.”
He added: “Having lost in front of your lordship they simply went to another jurisdiction to resume the same debate.”
But he said that, in the 28-page petition presented to the judge in Dallas, there was only one paragraph which dealt with the proceedings in London and their claims were “a grotesque parody of the truth”.
They had not told the judge they had been refused an order to restrain the sale of Liverpool.
“They concealed the fact because they are now anxious to secure for themselves a second bite of the cherry from that famous jurisdiction, the Dallas County Court.
“If it were not such a serious matter, it would be a joke.”
The Dallas proceedings also included a massive claim for damages and claims of a conspiracy, he said.
“The owners’ behaviour conclusively demonstrates just how incorrigible they are.
“They are absolutely determined to stop this transaction in its tracks and they have no lawful justification for behaving in this way.”
He added: “This is unconscionable behaviour of the worst possible kind and they are probably sitting there giggling.”
Mr Chivers told the judge that NESV “are the owners of Liverpool now”.
He described Hicks and Gillett as “the owners from beyond the grave who are seeking to exercise with their dead hand a continuing grip on this company.
“That is simply not acceptable.”
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