- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 4, 2010

LONDON (AP) - A Canadian-based consortium led by a Syrian businessman said Wednesday that it is close to buying Liverpool from the club’s American owners.

The statement from Yahya Kirdi, who is representing a group of investors from the Middle East and Canada, came hours before Chinese investor Kenny Huang stated publicly for the first time that he is also contemplating a takeover of the Premier League club but is yet to make an offer.

Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. put the 18-time English champions up for sale in April amid pressure from banks over the club’s $374 million debt resulting from their 2007 leveraged takeover.

Martin Broughton, who was brought in as chairman to oversee the sale process, said he hopes a buyer can be found before the transfer window closes on Aug. 31.

Kirdi’s talks with Hicks and Gillett stretch back into last year, predating Broughton being hired in April when Barclays Capital bank was instructed to handle a sale.

The Syrian-born Kirdi, who now lives in Canada, decided to announce Wednesday that his group is now in “advanced negotiations” after details of the rival Chinese bid emerged.

“Agreement has been reached on all major terms including the purchase price, repayment of the existing bank debt from RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) and Wells Fargo and financing of a new stadium in Liverpool’s Stanley Park,” Kirdi’s group said in a statement. “A formal purchase agreement between the parties is in the final stage of negotiation.”

Kirdi, who also oversees investments in Europe and North America, pledged to invest in the squad, which dropped from Premier League runner-up to seventh place last season _ denying them a spot in this season’s Champions League.

“Liverpool is a massive football club with passionate and proud fans in Merseyside and in every part of the world,” Kirdi said. “With additional money to improve the squad and financing in place to build the new stadium, LFC will be on a solid foundation to compete in the Premiership and in Europe for years to come.”

Kirdi was born in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo in 1966 and played soccer for hometown clubs Al-Itihad and Al-Oruba in the 1980s as well as the national youth team.

Kirdi could face competition for Liverpool from Huang, the chairman of Hong Kong-based investment company QSL Sports who issued a statement Wednesday expressing his interest in the club.

Mr. Huang would like to emphasize that he has registered interest in investing in Liverpool FC but has made no formal bid,” his Hong Kong representatives said.

Huang is co-chairman of both the National Basketball League of China and the Chinese Baseball League.

While Liverpool’s Premier League season begins against Arsenal on Aug. 15, the five-time European champions host Rabotnicki on Thursday in the Europa League’s third qualifying round, leading 2-0 from the first leg.

“I can only hope if the club changes hands it goes to a group of people who have the club’s fortune and future at heart and that they will do the right thing by the club,” Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson said. “If a new owner comes in it is very important he makes clear to the supporters of this club, a worldwide institution, that they are buying it for the right reasons.”