Business

Liverpool to receive new bid from Singapore billionaire

BBC business editor Robert Peston on Liverpool's possible future

The bidding contest for Liverpool FC may not be over.

I have learned that the runner-up in the contest, Peter Lim, a Singapore billionaire, is to approach Liverpool's board with a view to making a higher offer for the club.

According to sources close to Mr Lim, he was the Liverpool board's preferred bidder in the closing stages of the auction. He had discussions with Martin Broughton, Liverpool's chairman, and Christian Purslow, Liverpool's managing director, about how to announce his takeover, such was their apparent confidence that he would win the contest.

Mr Lim learned he wasn't the victor only a few hours before Mr Broughton announced on 6 October that the club would be sold to John Henry's New England Sport Ventures for £300m.

Mr Lim, who is being advised by the British firm of lawyers Macfarlanes and by the Wong Partnership of Singapore, still doesn't know why Mr Broughton went with New England Sports Ventures, owners of the Boston Red Sox.

He believes that in purely monetary terms, his offer was at least as attractive as Mr Henry's.

Mr Lim too was offering to repay all of Royal Bank of Scotland's and Wachovia's £200m of long term debt, to take on £60m of other debt, and to inject £40m of working capital.

What's more - and Mr Lim regards this as crucial - all the money being provided by him would come from his own cash resources. He is not planning to borrow any of it.

I understand he is also offering to provide tens of millions of pounds to Liverpool's manager, Roy Hodgson, to allow him to buy players when the transfer window opens in January.

According to executives close to Mr Lim, he was told by Mr Broughton that his ability to fund the takeover for cash, and the size of his cash resources, meant he was a more attractive owner than New England Sports Ventures.

Mr Lim was told that Liverpool's board was concerned that New England Sports Ventures would have to borrow to finance the takeover - raising questions about whether Liverpool really would break free from the financial shackles perceived to have been imposed by the current owners, George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

In the event, New England Sports Ventures have insisted it will not load up Liverpool FC with debt. But there are no guarantees that there won't be significant debt further up the corporate ownership structure of New England Sports Ventures - which could limit how much money Mr Henry and his colleagues can inject into Liverpool in the future.

Mr Lim is keeping a close eye on the court case, which starts tomorrow. The case is supposed to rule on whether Mr Broughton can sell Liverpool to New England Sports Ventures against the wishes of Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett.

The Singapore billionaire believes the judgement in that case may give him an opportunity to bid again, whatever Mr Broughton may wish. Mr Lim is also prepared to buy Liverpool should it ultimately collapse into administration under UK insolvency procedures.

According to sources close to him, he feels that he may have been shut out because New England made an offer to Royal Bank of Scotland to pay some of the £40m penalty fees the banks have demanded.

If that is the case, he believes Royal Bank may have done a poor deal, because he would be prepared to pay RBS and Wachovia more than the £10m or so which New England Sports Ventures is said to have put on the table.

"He never had a chance to negotiate directly with Royal Bank" said a source. "He was expecting to do so, after agreeing the takeover with the board".

Mr Lim has an estimated net worth of $1.6bn (£1bn) according to Forbes Magazine.

He made his fortune in fashion, logistics and agri-business.

His interest in English football stems from his ownership of several Manchester United themed bars in Asia - which have persuaded him that there is huge global potential for making money from top flight English football.‬‪

You can keep up with the latest from business editor Robert Peston by visiting his blog on the BBC News website.

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