Liverpool's board agreed to sell the debt-riddled Premier League club to the owners of the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday, but may have to take legal action to force out the existing American owners.
Current co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. have already said they will resist the bid from New England Sports Ventures, which owns the Red Sox, and a separate bid from Asia. Hicks and Gillett said the Boston bid, and one from an unidentified Asian investor, "dramatically undervalue" the 18-time English champions.
Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton said the Red Sox owners have offered to pay 300 million pounds ($477 million), which is only likely to cover the debts and bank charges stemming from the leveraged 2007 takeover by Hicks and Gillett.
Despite the opposition of Hicks and Gillett, who own all the shares in Liverpool, Boston's offer was accepted by the three non-owner board members: Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton who incidentally was hired by Hicks and Gillett in April to sell the club, plus managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre.
Now Broughton is set to go to court next week to reinforce his authority over the sale and challenge the owners' attempts to remove Purslow and Ayre from the board. Broughton said he expects the sale to be completed in about a week.
Broughton said Hicks and Gillett have "flagrantly abused" written undertakings made to Royal Bank of Scotland, which holds the bulk of Liverpool's debt.
"We need to go to the court to ... declare that we did act validly in completing the sale agreement, and then the buyers can complete the sale," Broughton said.
Hicks wants to sell for about 600 million pounds, a figure that has forced several investors to end their interest. The owners bought the club for 174 million pounds, taking on 44.8 million pounds of liabilities.
"The owners have invested more than $270 million in cash into the club. And during their tenure, revenues have nearly doubled, investment in players has increased and the club is one of the most profitable in the (Premier League)," Hicks and Gillett said in a statement. "As such, the board has been presented with offers that we believe dramatically undervalue the club.
"To be clear, there is no change in our commitment to finding a buyer for Liverpool Football Club at a fair price that reflects the very significant investment we've made. We will, however, resist any attempt to sell the club without due process or agreement by the owners."
The turmoil comes after Liverpool lost to Blackpool on Sunday, continuing the club's worst start to a league season since 1953. Liverpool hasn't won in five matches and for the first time finds itself in the relegation zone during the international break.