David Moores: ‘For the sake of the supporters, let Liverpool go’
Three years after selling the club, David Moores ends his silence with a letter to Tony Evans, Football Editor of The Times
In his covering note, Moores expresses the hope that his words “will do some good and make a difference”. Then he outlines why he wrote the letter
Dear Tony, I’m writing to you not out of any mission to clear my name — if I felt I had anything to apologise for I would have done so, without hesitation, a long, long time ago. I’m sending this to you because my family are being wounded by the combination of hearsay, mistruth and malicious gossip regarding my decision to sell the club.
Above all I’m writing because I care deeply about the club, the team and the fans. I hope against hope that Messrs Gillett and Hicks will see this letter and do the right thing.
In holding on and holding out they risk damaging a sporting institution of global renown and if they have any conscience or nobility they will stand aside and allow new owners to take over the club for its future benefit and that of its lifeblood — the fans.
The decision to sell was taken in 2003, when it became clear that greater investment in the club was needed than Moores could provide
One thing we would never countenance was any notion of borrowing against the club to create a phoney wealth for some “jam today” spending splurge. I can say with certainty that our housekeeping was immaculate.
But in the wake of Euro 96 with the influx of more and more overseas superstars on superstar wages, I was aware the game was changing beyond all recognition and deeply worried, too, about my ability to continue underwriting the financial side. I was from the ever-decreasing pool of old-school club owners, the locally based, locally wealthy supporter like Jack Walker who stuck his money in out of his passion for the club.
Football clubs were beginning to be seen as a source of profit rather than a source of pride; they were as much financial institutions as they were sporting legacies. The Abramovich era was upon us, and I knew that I could never compete.
Initially, the search for an investor focused on finding someone with the same kind of passion Moores and Rick Parry, his chief executive, had for the club
We wanted that fantasy investor — the infinitely wealthy, Liverpool-loving individual or family with the wherewithal to transform our dreams into reality. We invested huge sums and massive amounts of time investigating potential investors, only to conclude that they were not the right people for Liverpool. It would have been easier just to take the money, cross our fingers tight and hope things worked out — but we dug deep into every file and asked all the tough questions, knowing the answers might scupper any deal.
After rejecting a deal with Thaksin Shinawatra in 2004, the search for investment turned westward
We spent time [in the United States] with the hugely impressive Robert Kraft. Both Rick and myself were disappointed that the Kraft family decided not to take their interest any further. Around the same time we met George Gillett for the first time, liked him very much as a man and were struck by his sheer passion for the club he owned, the Montreal Canadiens. There was a cultural similarity between the Canadiens and LFC, in that Montreal is perhaps the most un-Canadian of Canada’s major cities; the fans see themselves as separate (and perhaps superior) to the rest of the country. They are devoted to their team, which gives them a sense of pride and identity. Importantly, too, all the fans we spoke to on the street and around the stadium had nothing but affection and praise for their owner, George Gillett. Sadly George was unable to follow up his very real interest with the necessary funding to take our club forward.
After coming close to securing a deal with Dubai International Capital at the end of 2006, Gillett was back
Gillett returned with a new proposal. We asked to hear more, and George introduced his partnership with the Hicks family. On 30th January 2007 we put the Gillett/Hicks proposal to the board, and they voted in favour
The pace at which the deal proceeded has drawn criticism since
We moved ahead with Gillett and Hicks with all due speed (even now I cannot accept that we were hasty) — and here is an element of the process I accept we could have handled better. We had looked into George Gillett’s affairs in detail, and he came up to scratch. To a great extent, we took Tom Hicks on trust, on George’s say-so. Gillett and Hicks produced a very substantial offer document containing all the key assurances re debt, the stadium, investment in the squad and respect for Liverpool FC’s unique culture, traditions and legacy. It was impressive stuff — and it did the trick. For the motion to be carried we needed around 90 per cent in favour. Over 1,700 shareholders voted and the result was 100 per cent in favour of accepting the offer.
The accusation that an internet search would have alerted the club to the unsuitability of the new owners rankles
So many times I have had people ask me, and write to me, and quiz the people who are close to me: “Wouldn’t a simple Google search have told you all you needed to know about Tom Hicks?”
The truth is that we went way beyond Google in our check-ups. We retained PricewaterhouseCoopers to advise us on the fabric of the deal, and they received assurances from Rothschilds, one of the most respected names in global finance, who vouched for both Tom Hicks and George Gillett. Indeed, Rothschilds — who were representing Gillett and Hicks — telephoned a non-executive director of LFC, Keith Clayton, to assure him that both were good for the money. Could we have done more? Probably — though under those circumstances, in that time-frame, probably not.
After so many false starts, Moores — and everyone connected with the club, was eager to sign on the dotted line
After four years searching, we may have been too keen, too ready to hear the good news that George and Tom had passed their tests. Don’t forget that everyone was delighted with their takeover at the time. Significant shareholders like Granada and Steve Morgan were insistent the board of LFC should accept the G&H offer, and left me in no doubt about my legal duty to accept the offer.
The new owners had also given written assurances — which were not followed through
Ultimately, the deal we signed up to was laid out in unambiguous terms in the share offer document. It is a matter of fact that the document pledged there would be no debt placed on the club, and significant funds would be made available for investment in the squad and the new stadium. I signed up for that — not money.
The final paragraph reiterates how difficult the situation has been for Moores and again calls for the owners to leave
It has been hard for me, sitting mute on the sidelines as the club I love suffers one blow after another. Since resigning from the board I have not set foot inside Anfield — and it hurts. I hugely regret selling the club to George Gillett and Tom Hicks. I believe that, at best, they have bitten off much more than they can chew. Giving them that benefit of the doubt — that they started off with grand ideals that they were never realistically going to achieve — I call upon them now to stand back, accept their limitations as joint owners of Liverpool Football Club, acknowledge their role in the club’s demise, and stand aside, with dignity, to allow someone else to take up the challenge. Don’t punish the club’s supporters any more — God knows they’ve taken enough. Take an offer, be realistic over the price, make it possible. Let the club go. It is a sign of strength, not weakness, to concede for the greater good.
Yours faithfully, David Moores
All my loving: descendant of entrepreneurs for whom football became the singular passion
• As the son of Cecil Moores and nephew of Sir John Moores, the Littlewoods pools and shopping empire family, David Moores was born into one of Britain’s most renowned and best-respected entrepreneurial families.
• On Merseyside in particular, the Moores family were revered for their financial support of Everton, where Sir John was known as “Mr Everton”, and Liverpool, and their backing of local good causes. But while other members of the Moores family followed their elders into commerce, David always appeared destined for a career in football, mainly because of his obvious devotion to Liverpool.
• By the time he became chairman of the club in 1991, Moores had suffered a personal tragedy when his first wife, Kathy Anders, was killed in a car crash when the vehicle he was driving overturned. He would remarry and his relationship with Marge, his second wife, is described as “strong” and “happy” by friends.
• A notoriously private person, Moores remained in the background even during his 16-year stint as the most senior figure in the Liverpool boardroom.
• While the chairmen of other clubs were happy to take the limelight, Moores preferred to stay out of the way in the belief that the club’s players and manager should be making headlines, not a director.
• His loyalty to managers was at times misplaced and he was the subject for a great deal of criticism for allowing Graeme Souness to continue in the role despite poor results.
• Since stepping down from the Liverpool board, Moores has not attended a match at Anfield, but those people closest to him insist that his feelings for the club remain as strong as ever.
- Words by Tony Barrett
May 26, 2010
David Moores: ‘Do fans just want owners who’ll go and buy all the best players?’5 Comments
Recommend? (6) The first high-profile bid for the club came from Thailand, led by Thaksin Shinawatra
The figures discussed were so enormous we were obliged to take a closer look. We had just persuaded Rafa [Benítez] to join the club as manager and were eager to back him in the transfer market. No matter how dizzying their wealth though, we would never simply rush into a relationship with an unsuitable partner, and so it transpired with Thailand.
After looking closely at the deal we withdrew from the proposition, and did so for all the honourable reasons you’d expect from our club. So it was ironic that Manchester City was subsequently sold to the same entity, without so much as a murmur of disapproval from their fan base.
The rejection of the Thais brought criticism from some fans
When it suits them, football fans can turn a blind eye to the things they’d rather not have to acknowledge. We did acknowledge it though — we confronted the reality that the Thai offer was unethical, made our decision to withdraw and carried on the search. Rick’s remark about selling the family silver has been used repeatedly against ourselves and the board — but it was said in all seriousness, with all sincerity. Several years down the line, I do sometimes wonder if we took the process too seriously. Do the majority of fans just want owners, whoever they are, who’ll buy all the best players, come what may? Speaking for myself, I could never square that outlook and that legacy with our own unique football club.
In late 2006, Dubai International Capital (DIC) came close to buying the club
We have been accused of failing to capitalise on the Istanbul Effect — in fact our talks with DIC stemmed directly from winning the Champions League in 2005, with Sameer al Ansari from DIC introducing himself to Rick Parry in Istanbul and making it known that he was an ardent Liverpool supporter. Rick wasted no time in following up this lead, and having laid out our needs (significant investment for players; a new stadium) we spent the next year working out a deal with DIC.
On 1st December 2006 we informed DIC that they were our preferred option — and that the deal would have to be completed by 31st December 2006, for two reasons. Firstly, so that Rafa could take advantage of the January transfer window, and secondly the timeline of non-negotiable targets we had to hit if we were to start the new stadium on time.
Several things happened (or didn’t happen) that gave cause for concern. Our being made aware that DIC had devised a seven-year exit strategy was one such issue, along with a suggestion they intended to raise £300 million in working capital (ie, debt), secured against the club. But by far the biggest reality check came when we got down to the practicalities of planning a schedule of works on the new stadium. Under strict terms we had negotiated with the various agencies, local and European, with whom we had to deal over grants, planning permissions etc, we were on course to complete the stadium in time for the 2009-10 season, but we had to keep resolutely to the timetable. Therefore (also in December 2006), the club put it to DIC that it was essential we placed an immediate order for the steel required for the new ground’s infrastructure. The steel was going to cost in the region of £12 million. Deadlines passed before and after Christmas. New Year 2007 came and still no steel, and quite frankly (and, I think, justifiably) we began to have misgivings.
These misgivings culminated in the board voting to accept Hicks and Gillett’s offer. It led to a showdown before the match away to West Ham United on January 30, 2007
I was conscious of the fact I’d agreed a deal with DIC, and telephoned Sameer al Ansari to tell him that the board preferred Gillett and Hicks’s offer, and I wanted 48 hours to think things through. DIC representatives confronted me prior to the game and put it to me that I had to sign off on their offer immediately or the deal would be withdrawn. I told them I wouldn’t be held to ransom — and they withdrew the offer. With hindsight, we may have had a lucky escape there as Dubai is not the buoyant market it was in 2007.
From The Times May 26, 2010
David Moores fighting to hold his head up high - Tony Barrett
After becoming Liverpool chairman in 1991, David Moores was paid a warm tribute by one of his predecessors.
“The Moores family have been great benefactors to Merseyside football,” Sir John Smith said. “David’s appointment will keep the predators at bay.”
Almost two decades on, the predators have not only stormed the Shankly Gates, they have put the future of Liverpool at stake. It is little wonder that Moores has not only revealed his “regret” at selling Liverpool to Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr but also called upon the unpopular pair to sell up at a reasonable price.
Moores has been criticised on two fronts in particular since it became clear to the overwhelming majority of Liverpool’s fans that the club are in the wrong hands. First, for selling to the Americans in the first place, and second, for remaining silent while the club stumble from one crisis to another.
By penning such a remarkable and, in places, hugely poignant letter, Moores has attempted to put the record straight on both fronts. It is also typical of a man who has always been naturally shy of publicity — he even refused interviews five years ago today on the morning after Liverpool had won their fifth European Cup amid wondrous circumstances in Istanbul — and wary of causing controversy. It is abundantly clear that he is acutely aware of the damage that is being done to the club and is desperate for it to be brought to a halt.
On several occasions during the past 12 months, The Times has sought an interview with Moores only for such approaches to be politely declined. There were occasions when it seemed like he would be ready to talk on the record, but for a variety of reasons it never transpired, despite Moores’s exasperation at what was happening at Anfield being widely known on Merseyside.
It is because of this that his letter assumes such significance. In many respects, it is an historical document because it represents the first-hand recollections of one of the most important figures in the most turbulent spell in the club’s history. This is David Moores trying to explain why he felt compelled to sell Liverpool, why he opted for the offer from Hicks and Gillett and not a rival bid from Dubai International Capital (DIC), and why he has come to regret his decision.
It is unlikely that all his critics will be won over by his account. But it will provide food for thought, with a situation that had for so long seemed black and white being clouded by shades of grey.
Perhaps the most crucial revelation involves the sales process. It had been widely believed that there had been no due diligence on the club’s behalf, that Moores had handed control to Hicks and Gillett without seeking, never mind receiving, reassurances about their ability to make good on their promises not “to do a Glazer” by saddling the club with inordinate levels of debt and that a new stadium would be constructed “as soon as reasonably practicable”.
This, in the eyes of Moores’s fiercest detractors, was his biggest failing, a perceived dereliction of duty that left the club he claimed to love in the hands of the predators he was supposed to protect them from. But his claim — and it is supported by an e-mail trail and other corroborating evidence — that Rothschild, the investment bank, provided these assurances after being appointed by the purchasers casts the circumstances surrounding the sale in a different light. His position is supported further by the official offer document that was put forward on behalf of Hicks and Gillett by Rothschild that made it clear that the club would not be responsible for the purchase debt.
But 3½ years later and Liverpool have just paid £40 million in interest to meet the requirements of the debt loaded on to them by Hicks and Gillett.
The disclosures regarding DIC’s offer are also illuminating. There is no doubt that DIC was the preferred option of Moores and the Liverpool board for a considerable period, but at a time when Dubai was involved in billions of pounds-worth of global investment, Moores’s recollections suggest one of its main investment arms dragged its feet when presented with an opportunity to purchase a genuine sporting trophy asset.
In hindsight, it would be easy to come to the conclusion that neither DIC nor Hicks and Gillett were right for Liverpool.
There will be much debate about Moores’s version of events, but one thing is in little doubt: there will be precious few Liverpool fans who do not share his feelings on the present owners of the club.
Copyright - The Times