Why RBS looks set to own Liverpool FC
For those interested in owning Liverpool FC, the important calculation is this one: do they want to pay a premium and buy the club and business now, for something between £420m and £600m, or do they want to wait until it is in the hands of its banks, in the hope of securing Liverpool for more-or-less the £280m value of its bank debt (which includes £40m of penalty fees)?
Many would say that harsh commercial logic dictates only one answer.
With the 15 October deadline looming for Royal Bank of Scotland, Liverpool's main creditor, to decide whether to take control of the club, most bidders would surely prefer to wait for the fire sale.
Which is why it looks increasingly likely that Liverpool will - before too long - be the property of Royal Bank of Scotland and the US bank Wachovia (which provided around 25% of the bank debt).
There remain big imponderables, however.
One is whether Royal Bank of Scotland can take control without the business falling into administration - which would lead to a nine-point deduction for Liverpool to its Premier League tally (and, right now, would leave it with an interesting minus four points, which is a bit surreal).
As I understand it, lawyers are beavering away on behalf of RBS to investigate whether the bank can take control while avoiding administration.
Also, for the avoidance of doubt, RBS wants to own Liverpool like Superman craves kryptonite. If, in mid-October, RBS does end up formally in charge, its plan would be pass the club on to a new owner as quickly as humanly possible.
The Kop end of Anfield, circa 1969
Finally, here's where those figures of £420m to £600m come from for the price tag if you want to buy Liverpool before the fire sale:
• £600m is what the two US owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett would like for the bank debt and their equity. It would value their equity at more than £300m, providing them with a handsome profit.
• £420m would recoup for Hicks and Gillett the £140m odd they've put into Liverpool's holding company, Kop Holdings, via their Cayman Islands vehicle. It would, in essence, give them their money back without a profit.
There may be some Liverpool supporters who feel it is worth paying Messrs Hicks and Gillett somewhere between £140m and £320m to spare Liverpool FC the humiliation of falling into the clutches of its banks - although the evidence of the fans' blogs and websites appears to be that most supporters would in fact rather stick pins in their eyes before handing a profit to the US duo.
I doubt, however, that any of those supporters have a spare £500m lying about that they don't need right now. Which is why it's a pretty fair bet that RBS will end up owning Liverpool (for a bit).