Live from the George Allen Courts Building in Beautiful Downtown, the Liverpool FC Hearing
|Left: Rob Ashfield, a native-born Englishman with season tickets to the LFC. At right: Tony Godfrey of Burleson.|
When last we left this saga we were told that 'round about 8 a.m. this morning, 160th District Court Judge Jim Jordan would rule on that temporary restraining order Tom Hicks and George Gillett asked for two long days ago in order to stop a U.K.-court-ordered sale of Liverpool FC to the BoSox-owning New England Sports Ventures. But now comes word that Hicks and Gillett plan to toss the TRO on their own first thing this morning -- not to clear the path to completing the sale to NESV, but in order to do their own deal with Virginia-based hedge fund Mill Financial, which would surely force NESV to file its own lawsuit.
After all, says NESV's John Henry this morning, via Twitter: "We have a binding contract. Will fight Mill Hicks Gillett attempt to keep club today. Their last desperate attempt to entrench their regime."
I am headed to the courthouse right now -- need to get some coffee first. Perhaps there will be no liveblog at all this morning. I've sent messages to Hicks's Dallas attorneys for further info. So while we wait for further news, I share with you, longtime Friends of Unfair Park or newcomers temporarily visiting from abroad, this sentiment shared by an Australian reader with Texas ties sent via e-mail last night, who says of Liverpool: "It is a fantastic and historic city. Home of Liverpool FC and Everton FC -- two great institutions -- and the birthplace of the Beatles. It is also a working-class city, and many people have not had it easy for a long time, so when the heart and soul of a community is threatened people react with vitriol and hatred against the aggressors. It would be like someone trying to bring down the Dallas Cowboys." Context and perspective and all.
So, now, time to get down to business. Updates forthcoming.
Update: 6:48 a.m.- Attorney's representing New England Sports Ventures are at the courthouse and do confirm Hicks and Gillett's attorneys filed at 1 this morning a motion to dismiss the temporary restraining order. They still want a hearing in front of the judge in order to confirm the filing, and for the judge to sign the order. Says George Bramblett, the Haynes & Boone attorney representing NESV, when asked why Hicks and Gillett tossed the TRO: "Maybe they thought they weren't going to win. Who knows."
Update: 7:08 a.m: The attorneys have gone into judge's chambers. Meanwhile, a handful of Liverpool supporters have taken up a row in the courtroom: "We're here to see the right thing done," says LFC season ticket holder Rob Ashfield.
Update: 7:12 a.m: We are being asked to turn off phones during hearing. The bailiff ain't messing around, so live updates will be put on hold. Here they come...
Update: 7:22 a.m.: Stephen Fox, repping Hicks and Gillett, confirms the filing has been made. He says Steve Stodghill will have a comment about the reason why following the hearing. When asked if Hicks and Gillett have sold to Mill Financial, he said, "As of last night no sale has been made, but we don't know what goes on in London." Meanwhile the bailiff relays a message from the judge to Liverpool supporters: "No outbursts."
Update 7:58 a.m.: The judge has ruled: The TRO has been dissolved, per both parties' wishes, and the motion for contempt has been withdrawn and rendered moot. The judge summed up the proceedings thusly: "It's been an interesting two days." To say the least. I'll have more quotes forthcoming, but essentially, says Bramblett, "Hicks and Gillett have demonstrated record of gamesmanship," referring to proceedings here and in England. Hicks's attorney has reiterated that there has been no sale to Mill Financial.
Update: 8:15 a.m. Now this, a statement from Hicks's attorney, which is on the other side. Long story short, further litigation likely.
Update at 10:17 a.m.: As far as the English are concerned, at least, Tom Hicks is no longer the owner of Liverpool FC. The deal with NESV is done.
Update at 12:03 p.m.: This just in from Fish & Richardson attorney Tom Melsheimer regarding the sale of the club and today's proceedings:
"Mr. Hicks and Mr. Gillett have withdrawn without prejudice their Texas lawsuit in order to fully comply with the order of the English court. We believe the order is overbroad and unfair, yet Mr. Hicks and Mr. Gillett respect the legal process. We believe that once the English court finally has a chance to hear all the facts a very different picture will be painted."Update at 1:15 p.m.: On the other side, a statement from Liverpool FC supporters union Spirit of Shankly concerning this morning's doings. In short: "The era of [Hicks and Gillett's] failed ownership has now gone." Fingers crossed?
LFC owners to pursue $1.6 billion from "epic swindle"
Hicks and Gillett withdraw TRO blocking sale of Liverpool Football Club. Action prevents RBS from needlessly putting Club into administration. RBS rejected owners' pledge to pay off all debts by October 15. Attorneys say ludicrous, self-serving and illegal behavior from directors and outsiders to hinder Club for years.
(Dallas, TX October 15, 2010) "It's an extraordinary swindle and it will result in exactly the wrong thing for the Club and the fans."
Those were the words used by attorneys representing Liverpool Football Club owners this morning when they announced they would apply all of their legal energies toward securing at least $1.6 billion in damages they expect will result from the proposed illegal sale of the Liverpool Football Club.
Attorneys also stated that protracted litigation concerning the Liverpool transaction will now cause even more uncertainty for the LFC.
"This outcome not only devalues the Club but i talso will result in long-term uncertainty for the fans, players and everyone who loves this sportbecause all legal recourses will be pursued," said Steve Stodghill, the Texas attorney representingthe Liverpool owners. "Mr. Hicks and Mr. Gillett pledged to pay the debt to RBS so that the Club could avoid administration that was threatened by RBS. That offer was rejected. It is a tragic development that others will claim as a victory.This means it won't be resolved the way it should be resolved. My clients worked tirelessly to resolve these issues but RBS would not listen to any reasonable solution and the Directors acted selfishly and illegally."
Stodghill said the owners have no choice but to pursue every legal avenue possible, and they will.
"Mr. Hicks and Mr. Gillett wanted to position this club for the future, but others have a differentagenda," said Stodghill. "In truth, there is nothing positive from these events for LiverpoolFootball. That is exactly the opposite of what my clients wanted to achieve. "
Spirit Of Shankly Press Release - For Immediate Release
Statement on LFC Takeover
Spirit of Shankly are delighted to hear the news today that the failed ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett has come to an end. Our Union was formed to protect the Club and to specifically hold any owners to account and it is gratifying to see the efforts our members have made to removing them from their failed tenure.
Liverpool Football Club are now rid of Hicks and Gillett and this has been achieved through the magnificent efforts of the supporters, from the early days of formation in the Sandon Pub, calling Hicks and Gillett to account, to campaigning and protesting tirelessly. It is our members along with the help and backing of other groups from the worldwide support of Liverpool Football Club that has seen the back of Hicks and Gillett.
Hicks and Gillett made the mistake of underestimating our members' commitment, passion and love for our football Club and they forgot that the passion that allegedly attracted them in the first place to Anfield was our most powerful weapon when their lies began.
Hopefully the era of their failed ownership has now gone and the Union can look forward to re-engagement with the Board and new owners, over the issues that are crucial to supporters such as ticketing, travel, a stadium solution and supporters securing an equity stake within the Club with the appropriate representation that would entail.
There is an opportunity for the Board and new owners NESV to reverse the disenfranchisement that has been recognised by the Club and to acknowledge that an independent and vibrant supporter base is only good for the Club. The actions of the UK based Board members throughout the court cases cannot be ignored, and their contribution to ridding the club of Hicks and Gillett must be recognised. They have been victims of the lies told by their former employers and the mistakes made by their predecessors, which meant their words could not always be trusted by supporters until they were backed up by actions. We are delighted to see that in this instance their words have been backed by their actions and we commend this.
It is now time to put our Club back together and the Spirit of Shankly gives a cautious welcome to the Club's new owners NESV and hopes they will not miss the opportunity of an early engagement to start the process of healing our Club. Everyone connected to Liverpool Football Club - the owners, the Board, the manager and the fans needs to be pulling in the same direction in order to bring success back to Liverpool FC - this has been missing for far too long. The Union's Management Committee would again like to acknowledge the debt we owe to our members and the efforts and sacrifices they have made to achieve this success.
And hopefully, for the final time.............................Tom and George, You're Still Not Welcome Here.
A Spirit Of Shankly spokesperson said, "For three years supporters have campaigned to rid our club of Tom Hicks and George Gillett. We wanted them gone for their broken promises, lies and contempt. Today we have achieved our goal, of getting rid of the people holding our club back, on and off the pitch."
They added, "Today is also about the future of this club - the supporters, players, manager, board and owners, all pulling in the same direction to make our club great again. We hope the owners follow up with their promises to listen. Supporters have many concerns, and questions and hopefully these will be answered. We hope for positive engagement to allow us to all work together for the benefit of the club we love."