- Associated Press - Thursday, October 14, 2010

LONDON (AP) - A British judge granted an injunction Thursday against the Liverpool owners that could clear the way for the club’s sale to the parent company of the Boston Red Sox, and a Texas judge scheduled a Friday hearing on a request to lift his order blocking the purchase.

High Court Judge Christopher Floyd in London issued an order against the legal action taken in Dallas by American co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr.

Hours later, Texas District Judge Jim Jordan, scheduled an early morning hearing for 7 a.m. CDT (8 a.m. EDT and 1 p.m. in London) on Friday to hear a motion by New England Sports Ventures to lift the temporary restraining order he issued Wednesday blocking the 300 million pound ($476 million) sale to NESV.

On the second straight day of trans-Atlantic litigation over the famous soccer team, Hicks and Gillett’s companies filed a motion in Dallas asking that the Royal Bank of Scotland, NESV and Liverpool’s independent board members be held in contempt and jailed.

The British judge ordered them to withdraw their action by 4 p.m. London time Friday (11 a.m. EDT) or be held in contempt of court.

“We are nearly there,” Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton said. “We are still in court in Texas. We still have to do that. We still have to take away the restraining order … Mr. Henry is (still) very committed.”

At a hearing in Dallas that started about 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, NESV lawyers argued Liverpool was headed for default if Jordan didn’t rule by 10:01 a.m. London time Friday (5:01 a.m. EDT), but couldn’t provide documentation of that when Jordan asked. Hicks lawyer Geoffrey Harper asked for two days to review the NESV motion.

“If you grant this relief, the injunction is moot,” Harper said. “They will have closed (the sale).”

Attorneys for Hicks denied they went to a Texas court only after the London court ruled against them.

Jordan resisted the urging of NESV attorneys to rule immediately on their request to lift the TRO and set the hearing for the early start to help the sale process in England.

“I want this issue to be resolved for the parties,” Jordan said.

In London, NESV lawyer David Chivers said the sale would go through once the Texas case is withdrawn.

“We are the owners (of Liverpool),” Chivers told the High Court. “The owners from beyond the grave are seeking to exercise with their dead hand a continuing grip on this company.”

The British judge said the legal action in Texas amounted to “unconscionable conduct on the part of Mr. Hicks and Mr. Gillett.”

“This case has no real connection to Texas,” Floyd said.

He criticized Hicks and Gillett for not telling the Texas court that the High Court in London had ruled against them earlier Wednesday in their attempts to block the sale.

“It’s a deliberate omission not to mention the fact,” Floyd said.

Richard Snowden, an RBS lawyer _ which controls Liverpool’s debts and has been trying to get the sale approved _ told the High Court that the Texas ruling was “inappropriate” and should have no bearing.

“The Texas court seems to have been told remarkably little about the proceedings in this court,” Snowden said. “This dispute concerns an English football club and their English companies. It has nothing to do with Texas other than the fact that Messrs. Hicks and Gillett may reside there.”

Hicks and Gillett were not represented at the hearing.

“They are anxious to secure a second bite of the cherry in that famous jurisdiction, the Dallas County court,” Snowden said. “We say the proceedings brought in Dallas are abusive, vexatious and oppressive. Having lost in front of your lordship, they have simply gone to another jurisdiction.”

Hicks and Gillett’s company filed a motion in Dallas asking that RBS, NESV and Liverpool’s independent board members be held in contempt and jailed.

“Further showing their unlawful intentions and brazen disregard for their obligations, defendants have undisputedly _ and, according to their statements, quite proudly _ violated this court’s temporary restraining order,” the motion said.

NESV spokeswoman Susan Goodenow declined comment.

Anthony Grabiner, a lawyer representing the Liverpool board at the London hearing, called the Dallas court case “frankly preposterous.”

“It reads like a novel,” he said. “If it wasn’t so serious, it would be a joke. … It’s a grotesque parody of the truth.”

Hicks and Gillett turned to the Texas judge Wednesday after Floyd ruled against them in their attempt to block the sale. The duo called the attempted sale an “epic swindle” that undervalues the storied Premier League club and said they were suing for $1.6 billion in damages.

Two others bids emerged this week _ one from Singapore businessman Peter Lim and another from an American hedge fund Mill Financial. Hicks and Gillett said Wednesday there was also a bid from FBR Capital Markets for between 375 and 400 million pounds ($595 million to $635 million).

Lim said Wednesday he will not proceed with his bid because the board is intent on selling to NESV “at the exclusion of all other parties.”


Associated Press Writer Schuyler Dixon in Dallas contributed to this report.

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