The owners of the Boston Red Sox baseball team agreed to buy Liverpool soccer club for £300 million ($481 million), ending a legal fight for the 18-time English champion.
New England Sports Ventures, controlled by hedge fund manager John W. Henry and Tom Werner, was able to take advantage of the forced sale by former private equity manager Thomas O. Hicks and George Gillett. The former owners were in default for £280 million to Royal Bank of Scotland Group and Wells Fargo, and tried to block the purchase in courts in the U.K. and Texas.
Messrs. Hicks and Gillett dropped a final Texas case on Friday and the Liverpool board approved the deal hours later.
The sale ends a turbulent three-year tenure at England’s most successful team. Since their £219 million leveraged buyout in 2007, Messrs. Hicks and Gillett have had disputes between themselves and met with fan opposition over rising debt and their failure to build a promised new stadium.
Messrs. Hicks and Gillett were to repay their debt Friday after having agreed to sell the club as part of a loan extension granted in April. The transaction removes all of the pair’s debt, cutting payments to £2 million to £3 million from £25 million to £30 million, Mr. Henry’s group said.
“I can guarantee this is not a leveraged buyout,” Mr. Henry said.
Messrs. Hicks and Gillett argued that the sale to Mr. Henry’s group wasn’t the best deal available, while two independent directors and Chairman Martin Broughton appointed to sell the club by its lenders in April said it was. Singapore billionaire Peter Lim made a £320 million bid on Oct. 12, trumping his earlier offer that was matched by the New England group. Lim withdrew two days later saying the board and RBS refused to meet with him.