Reports out of the British media indicate that Chinese billionaire Kenny Huang is planning a hostile takeover of Liverpool FC. Current owners Tom Hicks and George Gillette put the club up for sale during the spring but are against Huang’s takeover because they would not see a profit from the sale of the club.
If the Royal Bank of Scotland accepts Huang’s bid to purchase Liverpool’s £237 million in debt the Chinese billionaire would have “a ridiculously large amount of leverage” to oust the American duo, a source told the Press Association.
Huang is no stranger to professional sports. He began his foray into American athletics when he became the first Chinese graduate to land a job at the high-profile New York Stock Exchange. He has been the driving force behind basketball’s saturation in the widely untapped Chinese market, utilizing native-hero Yao Ming’s popularity to arrange off-season tours of the NBA’s biggest teams and stars. Huang is also a large shareholder in the New York Yankees. Baseball, more than any other sport, is similar to European soccer with the trade windows and lack of a salary cap.
But his most valuable weapon is the numerous wealthy backers who make up QSL, Huang’s Hong-Kong based sports company. Unlike Chelsea’s Roman Abramovic, Huang will not rely exclusively on his personal wealth to finance the team. Instead, he will act as a spokesman for these investors, making deals and signing players will be a shared venture, therefore decreasing the risk.
So let’s, for a second, assume that the American duo that the Liverpool faithful despise are ousted and Huang takes control of the club. Will it be enough to return Liverpool, who haven’t won a Premier League title since the EPL split from the Football Association and finished a woeful seventh last season, to their former glory? Yes, but not immediately.
Even if the deal gets done within the next week and Huang gives manager Roy Hodgson a sizable budget to sign new players, the summer transfer window closes in less than a month and many of the high-profile players looking for new clubs have already been snatched up. But it should serve to reassure Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres, and the Liverpool fans that help is on the way and the power to fight off any bids for their current stars.
It also means that Liverpool could become the face of the EPL in China. Next summer Liverpool will probably spend their preseason tour in the far east in much the same way both clubs from Manchester toured the United States over the past month. These additional fans means additional merchandise and TV sales which means more money for the club.
And by far the simplest and most important reason, the club will no longer be in debt. Huang is buying Liverpool’s debt rather than buying the club outright from Hicks and Gillette. The elimination of the debt means the elimination of the threat of administration, which would be catastrophic for the club and could mean a Leeds United-esque fall from grace.
So yes, a successful bid by Huang would be in the best interest for Liverpool and its fans but don’t expect Liverpool to return to the Champions League next season. The current owners and Rafa Benitez have done a great deal of damage to the club and no amount of cash will fix that immediately. This is a long-term venture that will pay huge dividends if given the needed time.
Is he the savior? Not really but he will stop the descent of Liverpool and be the first step in their journey back into the Premier League elite.