Cutting through the spin at Liverpool
More details emerged on Friday of the potential bid for Liverpool being lined up by Hong Kong businessman Kenneth Huang.
Although no formal offer has yet been made, it is understood the total value of the deal that has been put together by Huang and his backers is £450m. This includes around £300m to pay off Liverpool's debts and £150m to start paying for the construction of a new stadium and bring in players.
This is significant for two reasons.
Firstly, it demonstrates that Huang is not prepared to pay American owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett a premium for selling the club. He is only prepared to pay off the debts they have run up.
Now, getting an accurate figure for the current level of debt is difficult. But what we do know is that Royal Bank of Scotland is owed £237m and that there are other borrowings outstanding on top of that.
It is also known that, according to the most recent accounts, Hicks and Gillett invested around £144m in guaranteeing loans, as well as the stalled stadium project and playing squad.
However, as things currently stand, if Huang's bid is successful, Hicks and Gillett would receive no profit for their three years as owners at Liverpool - a fact that will delight the majority of fans bitterly opposed to their debt-financed takeover and ownership of the club.
The second interesting thing to note is the relatively modest amount set aside by Huang for the stadium redevelopment and for new players.
The estimated cost of the club's new ground at Stanley Park was around £350m at the time it was put on hold in 2009, with Hicks and Gillett unable to raise the money to complete the project. Apart from some site clearance and initial preparations, no major work has been done.
Exactly how much of the £150m is to be set aside for the stadium by Huang is unclear but even if it was the full amount it would clearly be insufficient to pay for the modern home Liverpool need to compete with the best in the Premier League.
As for the money left over for the team, even if that £150m was split into two equal chunks it is hardly the sort of transfer kitty that would transform Roy Hodgson's team overnight.
Nevertheless Huang sees this as just the start. It is understood that he and his backers plan to raise more money for the stadium and the team if and when they secure the club.
It also emerged on Friday that Huang is not the only Chinese businessman leading the bid for Liverpool. Guang Yang, the vice president of investment bank Franklin Templeton Investments, is working with Huang as the joint head of QSL Sports Limited - the vehicle which would own Liverpool if the bid was successful.
The pair are also working with Marc Ganis, whose Chicago-based company Sportscorp Ltd has helped form the offer being put together to buy Liverpool.
Ganis was quoted as saying that a "formal proposal" for Liverpool had not yet been submitted but that the "broad parameters" of a deal had been outlined to the man handling the sale, club chairman Martin Broughton, on Monday.
He also cleared up some of the confusion surrounding the possible involvement of the Chinese government by revealing that the China Investment Corporation (CIC) - the communist state's main sovereign wealth fund and one of the richest of its kind in the world - could become a passive investor but would have no direct control.
That contradicted newspaper reports on Thursday that the Chinese government was the mystery financier behind the bid for Liverpool.
Sources have confirmed again to me that CIC currently have no direct involvement in the Huang deal but could come on board later on - perhaps to help provide some of the finance for the new stadium.
Having said all that, it is hard to imagine that Huang and Yang have not sought the support of the Chinese government in their venture, even if it isn't providing hard cash.
So what happens now?
Broughton and Barclays Capital will examine the funding of those parties who have expressed an interest next week ahead of choosing a preferred bidder by next Friday. Whoever that is will then need to carry out due diligence on the club's books and finalise a deal. Broughton's aim is to complete a transaction by the end of the month.
A spokesman for Syrian/Canadian businessman Yahya Kirdi claimed on Thursday that a deal with Hicks and Gillett was close to being agreed. But at this stage he is not being treated as a serious bidder by Broughton. It is also mystifying as to why Kirdi would go direct to Hicks and Gillett if, as they themselves claimed in April, they were responsible for the British Airways chairman's appointment.
The Al Kharafi family of Kuwait has denied it is preparing a bid but has expressed an interest in the past, as has the New York based Rhone Group.
The situation is so opaque and there are so many spinners and agendas involved that it is impossible to predict with any certainty who might end up owning Liverpool. But all the jostling for position at least shows there is interest and that Hicks and Gillett's misadventure in English football could soon be nearing the end.