George Gillett, Liverpool’s co-owner, has moved to consolidate his position at Anfield and remove some of the financial uncertainty surrounding the club after he agreed to sell his majority share in the NHL team Montreal Canadiens back to the Molson brewing family as part of a deal worth an estimated £330m.
The 60-year-old, who took control of the Canadiens in 2001, has agreed to sell his 80.1% stake in the ice hockey team, together with the Bell Centre Arena where they play and the Gillett Entertainment Group, which promotes sport and music. The deal is not expected to go through until August but today’s announcement will help Gillett provide the increased personal guarantees that Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia have been seeking in relation to the refinancing of his and Tom Hicks’s £350m loan before next month’s deadline.
Hicks, Gillett’s co-owner, aims to do likewise between now and 24 July. The Texan has been seeking to sell off several of his sporting assets, including Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers and the NHL’s Dallas Stars.
The news that Gillett has reached an agreement in principle with the Molsons comes little more than a fortnight after Liverpool’s accountants warned Hicks and Gillett their ownership will be in “significant doubt” should they fail to refinance the loans next month. That forecast came after it emerged their parent company, Kop Football (Holdings) Limited, had suffered a £42.6m loss in the last financial year.
Gillett had paid the Molsons £165m for a controlling interest in the NHL’s most successful ever team eight years ago, with the former owners retaining a 19.9% stake. Their latest transaction must be approved by the NHL’s board of governors and is unlikely to be completed for a couple of months, but the Molson’s long association with the Canadiens means that few complications are anticipated.
Hicks and Gillett are expected to put out a statement today. It is understood it does not relate to finance or the new stadium and could concern the search for a new chief executive.
Source: Guardian UK
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