- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 12, 2010

LONDON (AP) - The battle for control of Liverpool went to court on Tuesday, with a bank trying to force through the sale of the Premier League club to the owners of the Boston Red Sox over the objection of the current American owners.

Royal Bank of Scotland, which holds the bulk of Liverpool’s debt, is seeking a court order preventing co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. from removing two of the three rival board members supporting a 300 million-pound ($476 million) sale to the Boston group.

RBS has already been granted an interim injunction preventing chairman Martin Broughton or managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre from being fired.

The case was being heard in London’s High Court before a standing-room crowd that included dozens of reporters and even a Liverpool fan wearing a red club shirt.

Broughton and Purslow were in the courtroom, while Hicks and Gillett were not.

Hicks and Gillett claim the proposed sale to New England Sports Ventures, headed by financier John Henry, undervalues the club, but the group has already signed a binding takeover agreement with the three board members.

Also making a bid for the club is Singapore businessman Peter Lim.

“Everyone is hoping for the best,” Henry said in a message to Liverpool fans on his Twitter account. “There have been enough twists and turns. Hopefully all gets sorted out soon; LFC moves forward.”

RBS wants the sale to the Red Sox ownership group to proceed and has already held off from putting Liverpool into financial administration, a form of bankruptcy protection which would lead to the club being docked nine points by the Premier League.

Liverpool, which won the last of its 18 English league titles in 1990, is off to its worst start to a season since 1953 and is mired in the relegation zone.

Friday was the original deadline for Hicks and Gillett to repay 285 million pounds ($453 million) of debt.

The bank says Hicks and Gillett forfeited control of the club to a new chairman, Broughton, as the condition of extending the repayment deadline for their liabilities in April.

Separate legal action may be required by Broughton to assert his legal power to sell the club.

If Liverpool goes into administration, Lim hopes to outmaneuver the Boston bidders with an improved offer.

Lim was ranked 655th on Forbes magazine’s list of global billionaires in March with a net worth of $1.5 billion.

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