Wed, May 19, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Liverpool FC accepts Thai bid

EUROPEAN FOOTBALL Sports Authority of Thailand head Santhiparb Thechavanija said a plan to raise 10 billion baht through a government lottery has been approved

AP , BANGKOK, THAILANDPARIS AND LEICESTER, ENGLAND

Shoppers stand behind a promotional poster showing players from English League club Liverpool at a sporting-goods shop in Bangkok, yesterday. Liverpool has agreed to sell a 30 percent stake of the club to Thailand.

PHOTO: AFP

The Liverpool soccer club has accepted Thailand's bid to buy a 30 percent stake in the English team, and the government plans to raise money for the purchase through a state-run lottery, officials said yesterday.

"In principle, they agreed to give it to us and now we are working on details," Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told reporters. "It has moved forward in a good way ... we still have to work out the details."

The billionaire tycoon-turned politician said he was contacted by the English Premier League team's officials Monday night via fax and e-mail and that the two sides still had four points to discuss, but that an agreement for the purchase ``should be finished by this week.''

"By June, things will probably be concluded officially," Thaksin added.

A spokeswoman at Liverpool FC said yesterday the club had nothing to add to a statement last week in which it said Thaksin's bid was being considered after a rival offer by English property magnate Steve Morgan was rejected.

Sports Authority of Thailand Governor Santhiparb Thechavanija said the Thai Cabinet yesterday approved a plan to raise 10 billion baht (US$250 million) through a government lottery to fund the purchase.

"It will take around three months to raise the funds," Santhiparb told reporters after a weekly Cabinet meeting.

About half of the funds will be used to set up a company to buy Liverpool's shares. The remaining 5 billion baht (US$125 million) will be used to finance lottery prizes and the company's management costs, he said.

It is expected that the Sports Authority of Thailand would hold a controlling 51 percent stake in the company that would buy Liverpool shares. The rest would be allocated to private investors.

Santhiparb refused to give the exact amount needed to buy the Liverpool stake but Thaksin has said that he had offered to pay up to 4.6 billion baht (US$115 million).

The one-time special sports lottery tickets would cost 1,000 baht (US$25) each, and every buyer will get a 200-baht (US$5) worth share in Liverpool, Santhiparb said.

He said the lottery prize would remain a secret for now. "The prize will be something you never expected," he said. "You won't believe it."

The Bangkok Post newspaper reported yesterday that the first prize would be 1 billion baht (US$25 million).

Santhiparb said he was flying to England later Tuesday to work out fine points of the purchase and to invite Liverpool striker Michael Owen and midfielder Stephen Gerrard to witness the signing ceremony in Thailand.

Meanwhile, a group of 12 senators issued an open letter to Thaksin to protest the move, saying the purchase would not be "a useful investment,'' and that the government should instead spend the funds on bettering the lives of Thai people, many of whom are impoverished.

"If the prime minister insists on buying the Liverpool share, the senators have no other choice but to submit a no-confidence motion against him," said letter.

Thaksin, who made his fortunes from his telecommunications business empire, first hinted that he would use his personal fortune to acquire the Liverpool shares, but later gave the deal a populist spin by saying all Thais should have part ownership in the team.

On Saturday, Thaksin said owning a stake in Liverpool could deliver economic benefits to local businesses through merchandising deals and help launch lucrative international careers for young Thai soccer players.

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