- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 13, 2010

LONDON (AP) - A British judge ruled against Liverpool’s American owners Wednesday, clearing the way for the sale of the debt-ridden Premier League club after a bitter boardroom battle.

The owners of the Boston Red Sox and a Singapore billionaire are bidding to buy the club, with a decision expected by the Liverpool board on Wednesday night.

High Court Judge Christopher Floyd ruled that Liverpool co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. do not have the power to oust the boardroom rivals who sanctioned the sale.

The board agreed last week, against the wishes of Hicks and Gillett, to sell the club to New England Sports Ventures for $476 million.

The New England group, which runs the Red Sox and is headed by financier John Henry, welcomed Wednesday’s court ruling as a “huge step forward” for Liverpool.

The company said it has a “binding agreement in place” with the Liverpool board and looks forward to concluding the deal.

“We are ready to move quickly and help create the stability and certainty which the club needs at this time,” NESV said in a statement.

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.

Singapore businessman Peter Lim is still pursuing his rival bid for Liverpool. He urged the board to consider all the offers and “not simply ratify a sale to NESV.”

Lim, who originally matched the Boston offer, made an improved bid Tuesday of $506 million.

“I have delivered my offer to the board and believe that my ownership represents the best option for the future of the Club and it’s supporters,” he said Wednesday. “I hope that when the Board is reconstituted tonight that it will not simply ratify a sale to NESV but will consider all the offers before them.

“I am asking the Board to run a full and fair process that enables all of the offers to be considered on their merits before the future of the Club is decided.”

The board meeting comes ahead of Friday’s deadline to repay the club’s debts to the Royal Bank of Scotland.

“RBS has every confidence that having been put on a proper footing, the board will now reach appropriate decisions regarding the next steps,” the bank said in a statement.

But Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton wouldn’t specify which bid or bids would be considered at the board meeting.

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