The American owners of Liverpool FC turned down a deal worth up to £1.5 billion to sell the club to an investment consortium led by Dubai financier Amanda Staveley, it has emerged.
Following more than a year of negotiations, the sale was killed at the eleventh hour by Fenway Sports Group, who also own the Boston Red Sox, with FSG believing that the economic outlook for the English Premier League was such that they could realise a better price in the future, sources close to the negotiations told The National.
Until now, speculation has swarmed around Ms Staveley and her firm PCP Capital Partners over the possibility that either Liverpool or their rivals Newcastle United could be the subject of a bid after she and her husband - and the firm’s managing partner - Mehrdad Ghodoussi were seen at St James’ Park earlier this month for a Premier League match between the two clubs.
It was in fact at that match that the pair turned their attentions to a potential acquisition of Newcastle United, the sources said.
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Since then, Newcastle owner and Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley has announced his intention to sell the side he first acquired an interest in in 2007.
A consortium, led by PCP Capital Partners and including Arabian Gulf and Chinese investors, is now in discussions to buy the club for a deal worth at least £300m.
However, the initial focus was on Liverpool, the sources said, with talks that first began in April last year.
Ms Staveley was also involved in an earlier and ultimately fruitless bid by Dubai investors for Liverpool in 2008. Similarly, it was the actions of the then American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett that helped kill the deal at the last minute.
This time it appeared that the deal would go through given the offer of an initial £1.2bn in cash potentially rising to £1.5bn contingent on certain criteria such as Uefa Champions League performance. FSG bought the club for £300m in 2010.
However, FSG pulled the plug last month because, the sources said, with global TV rights expected to rapidly increase over the next two cycles the group believed that the club was being undervalued. Premier League rivals Manchester United are valued at around £2.7bn, according to KPMG.
Interest from digital media companies, such as Facebook and Amazon, ahead of next year’s auction of Premier League broadcasting rights – both domestic and global – has led to football clubs anticipating that traditional broadcasters will pay more to secure live football which is a critical part of their business models.
In recent weeks, activity on social media channels has shown in equal measure expressions of excitement and scepticism over Ms Staveley’s potential involvement in both Liverpool and Newcastle United.
There is anticipation on all sides however about which of this weekend’s Premier League games she might attend, with Liverpool fans the most likely to be disappointed.
Ahead of Newcastle United’s game away at Burnley on Monday, supporter @wallacemark2607 tweeted: “@FlagsLeazes please get an Amanda Staveley flag done for next game we need her to see how much fans want her to take over our club.”
A statement earlier this month from Mr Ashley said that the club had been put up for sale in the interests of the fans and to give the best possible “opportunity of securing the positioning and investment necessary to take it to the next level at what is an important time in its history.”
PCP Capital Partners, Liverpool and FSG declined to comment when contacted by The National.