THE former owners of Liverpool FC have been ordered to pay a sum in the region of £1m as security to continue their long-running legal battle over the sale of the club to New England Sports Ventures (NESV).
Tom Hicks and George Gillett applied to the Court of Appeal (CoA) to delay the High Court trial – scheduled for April – to give them more time to raise the required money.
But this was over-ruled by Lord Justice Lewison, which means Hicks and Gillett will have to pay up if they wish to pursue their bitterly-fought legal campaign.
In October, Mr Justice Peter Smith ruled that the case should start in April and ordered the claimants to surrender security for costs.
It was this which Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett were appealing against. It was argued that the claimants could not raise the funds to pay for the case should the trial begin in April and that the payment for security for costs should not be expedited, delaying the case until late 2013 or early 2014.
The legal battle began after Liverpool FC was sold by RBS bank to NESV – headed by American businessman John W Henry – in a £300m deal in Oct, 2010.
Mr Hicks and Mr Gillett tried and failed to block the sale. They claimed the club was sold at a “substantial undervalue” and said RBS “deliberately” blocked their attempts to “refinance”.
The American pair called the sale “an epic swindle at the hands of rogue corporate directors and their co-conspirators,” referring to the role played by the club’s former chairman Martin Broughton, managing director Christian Purslow, and commercial director Ian Ayre.
In his written ruling on December 20, Lord Justice Lewison referred to the “bitterly fought and very expensive proceedings.”
He also referred to the “extraordinary volume of paper, the extravagantly long skeleton arguments, which more resemble the Michelin Man than skeletons.”
According to the CoA ruling, the claimants have now paid £712,000 on account securing the future of the case, but well short of the estimated £5m needed for security for the case to proceed further.
The 10-week trial is now due to begin on April 22.
Both RBS and representatives for Mr Hicks declined to comment on the development.
But a source close to the case said: “The ball is now very much in Hicks and Gillett’s court.
“If they want the trial to go ahead in April, they will have to put up that money.”