Liverpool sold to Red Sox owners

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LONDON (AP) - Liverpool was sold to the owners of the Boston Red Sox on Friday after a bitter trans-Atlantic court fight with the previous American owners over the storied English soccer club.

The $476 million deal with New England Sports Ventures ends the turbulent three-year ownership by Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr.

The sale went through after Hicks and Gillett withdrew the temporary restraining order they had obtained in a Texas court. Later, they also dropped their claim for $1.6 billion in damages.

The deal came on the day the Royal Bank of Scotland and Wells Fargo had set as the deadline for repayment of the club’s debts, which have risen to more than $456 million.

“We are committed first and foremost to winning,” said John Henry, the financier who heads NESV. “We have a history of winning, and today we want LFC supporters to know that this approach is what we intend to bring to this great club.”

Amid the takeover turmoil, Liverpool is mired in the relegation zone after its worst start to a league season since 1953.

“As every Liverpool fan knows, the most nerve-racking way to win a match is by a penalty shootout,” club chairman Martin Broughton said. “But in the end, as long as you get the right result, it’s worth the wait. We’ve got the right result.”

Broughton said the deal “comprehensively resolves the pressing issue of the club’s debt and should give staff, players and fans great confidence regarding the future of Liverpool FC.”

Liverpool went to the High Court in London twice this week to win approval for the sale over the objections of Hicks and Gillett, who claim the price undervalues the 18-time English champions.

“It’s been pretty stressful, but we’ve been confident all the way through that we’d get there,” Broughton said outside the London law offices where the deal was signed.

Hicks and Gillett originally said that even though they were withdrawing the restraining order, they would pursue a claim for $1.6 billion in damages. However, later in the day their attorney said they were dropping the claim to comply with an English court order.

But they suggested the fight isn’t over, saying, “We believe that once the English court finally has a chance to hear all the facts a very different picture will be painted.”

Broughton said he would stay as chairman in a transitional role, while Henry decides how he wants to run the club.

Henry reached out to Liverpool fans in a bid to break with the deeply unpopular Hicks and Gillett.

“We’re not going to have a lot to say,” he said. “We are going to do a lot of listening. We have a lot to learn. Our actions will hopefully speak for words.”

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