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Liverpool co-owner upset over speculation

Gillett advices Liverpool and Montreal fans to focus on players, not front-office business, as he gets agitated on being pressed about the financial stability of his sports teams.

sports Updated: Mar 26, 2009 11:24 IST

George Gillett Jr.'s speech on global ownership turned personal on Wednesday when he was pressed about the financial stability of his sports teams, Liverpool and the Montreal Canadiens. An agitated Gillett was seen fuming at the SportAccord convention of global sports leaders, that a private matter has suddenly drawn worldwide attention."I am not used to this kind of attention, and this kind of impoliteness," Gillett said.

Gillett has engaged six investment advisors to reassess his varied holdings _ for estate planning purposes only, he contends. The central issue is whether Gillett would sell his 50 percent stake in the English Premier League team or offload the NHL's Canadiens. "It got reported ... that I was selling assets, as opposed to estate planning," said Gillett, who was forced to address the questions during what was supposed to be a lecture on global sports ownership in the 21st century. "Even when you think you're doing it right, it gets distorted. There is no story yet. We'll find out when they give us the reports." "You may see a recapitalization here or there, we may bring in a partner or two. But I think it's unlikely you will see any asset sales," he added.

Gillett and Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks, who also owns the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars, have a July deadline to refinance the loan that funded their takeover two years ago. That financing package of about $368.2 million must be renewed after a six-month extension was granted by the Royal Bank of Scotland and U.S. investment bank Wachovia. But RBS recently announced huge losses in this global economic downturn and may not be in a position to extend further financing.

Selling his Liverpool stake would require the approval of Hicks, but Gillett owns 80.1 percent of the Canadiens and the Bell Centre. "The businesses are all in excellent shape financially, they all are healthy, they've got strong incomes and relatively small debt in this difficult world," Gillett said. "Yet if you read the speculation that's going on, you'd somehow or other read that we're in financial difficulty and so forth."

Gillett's advice to Liverpool and Montreal fans is to focus on players, not front-office business."I don't think owners should be directly involved in a public way," Gillett said. "I'm a very private person. That's the way I am. That's the way I prefer it to be." He said he accepted the invitation to appear at the conference before the Liverpool news started to surface and probably wouldn't have done so had he known he'd get grilled about it.

First Published: Mar 26, 2009 11:17 IST