Liverpool FC’S debt levels will be a key factor in whether interest from two Indian tycoons leads to major investment, experts said today.
It was revealed yesterday that two businessmen from the sub-continent, Mukesh Ambani and Subrata Roy, were competing for bids to buy a significant stake in the club.
But representatives of Mukesh Ambani, head of Reliance Industries and the wealthiest man in India and seventh-richest in the world, denied claims he was interested in doing business with Liverpool’s co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett.
And it is understood there has been no bid submitted from Subrata Roy, chairman of the Sahara Group in India, although his spokesman would neither confirm nor deny a report suggesting Roy’s interest was “serious”. The club has refused to comment on the potential buyout, but Reds boss Rafa Benitez said he would welcome any new investors.
Analysts yesterday cast doubt on whether Liverpool FC was an attractive investment opportunity given its current £237m debt levels.
James Dow, a specialist accountant whose Daresbury-based firm, Dow Schofield Watts, has worked with football clubs in the past, said LFC did not have much merit as “a genuine investment opportunity.” He said: “There are real practical impediments to getting a deal done. The club has got a significant amount of debt in it at the moment.
“Hicks and Gillett have personally guaranteed some of that indebtedness, which would be a major stumbling block to getting the deal done. “An added complication is that you have got to deal with two people, not one. They will have different priorities on what they want to get out of any deal.”
He added: “Liverpool FC is an excellent franchise and brand, but the current financial structure it’s got is something which a potential buyer can’t escape from. “When you also factor in funds for strengthening the squad and building a new stadium, it becomes a very large bill.”
Manager Rafael Benitez said he had been “waiting for a while” for a new stadium and that he had signed his new five-year contract on the understanding the American co-owners would be “going forward”.
“I’ll be really pleased if we can bring people who can help to bring the new stadium closer,” he added yesterday.
Roy, 62, founded the Sahara Group, which deals in property, media and tourism, in 1978. He built the company from scratch and employed just three workers at the outset. Now it runs a private airline, TV channels, a newspaper and claims to own some 33,000 acres of Indian real estate.
Its four-year sponsorship deal with the India cricket team, worth £55m, expires this year.
Since 2003, Roy has featured in lists of India’s 50 most powerful people.
Meanwhile, Ambani’s personal fortune is around $19.5billion (£12.5billion) – easily bigger than Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s $8.5billion, but falling short of Man City’s Sheikh Mansour’s estimated $22billion.
The 52-year-old dad-of-three inherited his wealth from his father, Dhirubhai, who founded Reliance and built it up into a global power player. According to his write-up in the Forbes magazine rich list, he is a fan of Bollywood movies and lives in a 27-storey, $1billion home.
He was an undergraduate at the University of Bombay and then went to the elite US university Stanford, but dropped out.