When they bought Liverpool Football Club, Yanqui sport tycoons George Gillett and Tom Hicks no doubt intended to make their mark on the business of soccer. Mission accomplished! The two American bumblers—who fell into idiotic feuding with one another almost immediately after their leveraged takeover of the club—now provide an object lesson on how to turn one of the most valuable sports properties in the world into a sucking financial chest wound. In a larger sense, their kamikaze “stewardship” of the club shows how to destroy value and set fire to wealth like so much kindling.
Consider that Liverpool enjoys one of the richest histories in sports, boasts some of the game’s most committed fans and is one of the four dominant teams in the world’s most popular team-sport league. Liverpool basically gains automatic entry into the lucrative Champions League every year. While it’s no match for Merchandise United in the replica-kit, scarf and branded doo-dad market, Liverpool holds its own in that all-important field. Consider, also, that the football team itself reports a record gross of almost $260 million, with a respectable profit margin of about 6 percent. Thanks to the owners’ huge debt, however, the overall Liverpool enterprise lost, oh, about $70 million last year.
Such is the caliber of genius that qualifies as “fit and proper” by the ownership standards of the Premier League.