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Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010

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Done deal: John Henry (left), who heads New England Sports Ventures, and Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton speak to the media in London on Friday following the sale of the club in a $476 million transaction. AP

Liverpool sale goes through

LONDON (AP) After reviving the pride of New England, John Henry and Tom Werner will try to resuscitate one of Old England's most famous soccer teams.

The Boston Red Sox ownership group won its fight for Liverpool on Friday, gaining control of the struggling and nearly bankrupt Premier League club from Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. in a trans-Atlantic legal tussle that replaced one set of American owners with another.

Henry and Werner are hoping to do with soccer what they did in baseball.

Before they bought the Red Sox in 2002, the franchise hadn't won the World Series since 1918. The pair transformed it into a model club that won not one but two Series titles, in 2004 and 2007. They restored venerable Fenway Park, to boot.

Now they'll turn their attention to the pride of Liverpool, the gritty northwest England seaport that brought the world the Beatles. While the Reds have won a record-tying 18 English league titles, they haven't finished first since 1990, and play in crumbling and cramped 126-year-old Anfield. Currently, they are 18th among 20 teams, in danger of being sent to the minor leagues next season.

"We are committed first and foremost to winning," Henry said. "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."

The purchase by New England Sports Ventures, the parent company of the Red Sox, was arranged by the New York company Inner Circle Sports and had an announced value of $476 million.

The sale was engineered by the team's three independent directors, appointed last spring by the Royal Bank of Scotland after Hicks and Gillett couldn't make debt payments on loans they used in their 2007 leveraged buyout, which cost $431 million.

Hicks and Gillett claimed they pumped millions more into the team and that it currently is worth as much as $1 billion. They said RBS and the independent directors led by chairman Martin Broughton sold Liverpool out from under them in an "illegal . . . extraordinary swindle."

Hicks said RBS refused to allow him to repay Liverpool's debts of around $453 million to RBS and Wells Fargo, which were due Friday.

"This was a conspiracy of the British Establishment — Royal Bank of Scotland — our chairman and our highly compensated employees," Hicks said in an e-mail.

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