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Battle for control of Liverpool

sports Updated: Mar 06, 2008 21:46 IST

AP
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The battle for control of Liverpool escalated Thursday with Tom Hicks disputing claims that co-owner George Gillett Jr. had been allowed to offload his 50 percent stake in the soccer club.

Gillett is in the final stages of striking a deal with Dubai International Capital after Hicks relaxed his power of veto and allowed his partner to sell all his stock, according to an executive close to DIC's bid for the club.

The executive spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. Hicks, however, is sticking firm to his own intention of taking majority control of the Reds, a person familiar with the Texan's plans told the AP, also on condition of anonymity. Hicks is only willing to let Gillett sell 49 percent of the club as long as Hicks gets the other 1 percent to make him the majority shareholder.

Hicks and Gillett bought Liverpool for 218.9 million pounds (then US$431 million) in March 2007.

The executive working on the DIC bid insisted that Hicks is preparing to hold face-to-face talks with DIC next week _ despite rebuffing the consortium's initial 500 million pound (US$993 million; euro650 million) bid for the whole club. Initial estimates had put the bid at 400 million pounds (US$794 million; euro522 million). The executive claimed Hicks, who also owns the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Stars, spoke by telephone Wednesday with Amanda Staveley, DIC's lead negotiator, to arrange a meeting in England early next week to bring the situation to a conclusion.

The Hicks camp denied that claim Thursday.

The uncertainty surrounding the club's future ownership has overshadowed Wednesday's 4-0 victory over West Ham, which restored Liverpool to fourth in the Premier League standings. Liverpool fans staged a protest during the game, urging the American owners to sell to DIC.

Fans are upset that the duo have saddled the club with debt, failed to start building a new stadium and sought to replace popular manager Rafa Benitez.