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Hicks looking to sell new shares in sports group to raise funds to take control of Liverpool

Hicks looking to sell new shares in sports group to raise funds to take control of Liverpool

Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks is looking to sell new shares in his sports group to raise funds to take control of the Premier League club by acquiring all or part of George Gillett Jr.'s 50 percent stake.
Investment bankers JP Morgan Chase & Co. have been tasked with raising private equity through the Hicks Sports Group, which includes his U.S. sports franchises, people familiar with Hicks' plans told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
The duo bought the English Premier League club for 218.9 million pounds (then US$431 million; euro333 million) as 50-50 partners last March, but Gillett is seeking to sell his share and Hicks is trying to raise money to become the majority owner.
Hicks alluded this week that Gillett was exploring a sale of his stake to Dubai Capital International. And in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Hicks publicly affirmed his power to block Gillett from selling his shares.
Gillett's ongoing discussions to sell to DIC again were confirmed on Friday to the AP by a financial industry executive familiar with negotiations. The executive spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.
If Hicks could secure sufficient funding to become the controlling owner at Anfield, it would send a defiant message to fans that he will be a long-term fixture at English soccer's most-decorated club.
DIC was in talks to acquire the club a year ago but withdrew. DIC _ the private-equity investment arm of the Dubai government _ is only interested in acquiring a controlling stake, the executive told the AP.
Roy Winnick, a New York-based spokesman for Hicks, wouldn't comment on his client's options.
Hicks could attempt to buy out Gillett's shares and personal guarantees, which were central to last month's refinancing of the loan used to purchase Liverpool. The price of a buyout by Hicks of Gillett would be about 150 million pounds (US$300 million, euro198 million), the financial industry executive said.
A person familiar with Hicks' plans ruled out a public offering of shares in Hicks Sports Group, which includes Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers and the NHL's Dallas Stars as well as the 50 percent stake in Liverpool through Kop Holdings. The person cited volatility in the global financial markets.
The window of opportunity for that option may reopen before the end of the year, but isn't currently viable, the person added.
But the executive, who has been in contact with JP Morgan Chase & Co., and the person familiar with Hicks' plans said the Texan has been looking into the feasibility of a private placement to raise money.
Uncertainty in the global markets prevented the investment bankers in January from attracting interest in the new Hicks Sports Group shares, but they have been back at Anfield in recent weeks.
Last month, Hicks revealed he had spoken to DIC about a "10 to 15 percent participation" but that his valuation was viewed by DIC too high.
Since then, Hicks has told the AP that he wants to take a "more active role" at Anfield, while affirming his commitment to the club "regardless" of Gillett's actions this week.
But DIC and Gillett are in constant negotiations, according to financial executive said. The Dubai consortium is interested only in gaining control of the Reds, the executive said. That would require Hicks to sell shares, something that isn't being considered.
"He's not in the market to sell, but he's in the market to buy more shares," another person close to Hicks said, also speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the deal.
Hicks said this week he was preparing to "fix the situation."
"Not only am I not going to sell, my partner cannot sell without my approval," Hicks said in Thursday's Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "So, I kind of have the ability to determine the outcome of what is going to happen, and I am right in the middle of that."
Since attending a December match against Manchester United, Gillett and son Foster Gillett have been less visible at Liverpool and Hicks has become the ownership spokesman.
Many fans have turned against the American owners, who publicly feuded last autumn with popular manager Rafa Benitez over player transfers. Hicks has acknowledged he sought out former Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann in November as a possible replacement for Benitez, which enflamed tensions.
But last week Benitez spoke warmly about encouraging and motivational e-mails sent by Hicks, while stating that Gillett hadn't entered into similar electronic correspondence.
A group of Liverpool fans is also hoping to buy the club from the Americans. Share Liverpool FC is trying to raise 500 million pounds (US$990 million, euro650 million) by asking fans to pledge 5,000 pounds (US$9,900, euro6,500) each.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has blamed the uncertainty off the pitch for the team's failure to challenge for the Premier League title.
The 18-time English champion had prioritized claiming its first title in 18 years, but trails leader Arsenal by 17 points and is now battling fourth-place Everton for the final Champions League berth.
The Reds are in a good position to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals, after a 2-0 first-leg victory over Inter Milan.