Sun, Jan 25, 2009 - Page 18 News List

Kuwaiti group says it’s not in talks to buy Liverpool

AP , KUWAIT CITY

A Kuwaiti business group denies reports that it is in talks to buy Liverpool.

Nasser al-Kharafi, the co-owner of the Kharafi Group, was reported to have met with Liverpool officials this week, fueling speculation that he was ready to buyout the club’s US owners. But Loay al-Kharafi, the group’s vice chairman, said on Friday there were no negotiations at all about buying all or part of the club, insisting: “There were no talks with Liverpool.”

The reports emerged as a six-month countdown begins for Liverpool co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr to refinance a bank loan of £250 million (US$339 million) used to purchase the club.

Representatives of Hicks and Gillett, who bought Liverpool for £218.9 million in March 2007, were also ­reported to have held discussions last July with Nasser al-Kharafi, though nothing came of the talks.

The Kuwaiti construction and restaurant tycoon was ranked by Forbes magazine last year as the world’s 46th-richest man, with an estimated fortune of US$14 billion.

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said on Friday he had no knowledge of the reported developments and made it clear he was ­concentrating solely on soccer matters.

“The atmosphere here inside the training ground is fine — we do not have problems here,” Benitez said. “The players are working together, and there are no problems between them. It will be difficult against Everton [today], so we must focus on only what happens on the pitch ... I am only thinking as far as the next game.”

Liverpool’s US owners have been under pressure from fans since rejecting a £500 million takeover bid by the Dubai International Capital group last March and then shelving plans to replace Anfield due to the economic downturn.

A Liverpool supporters group that met Gillett in September regretted the timing of the speculation.

“We would welcome a sale of LFC to ‘fit and proper’ owners, true custodians who would look after the values and traditions of our club, and treat it with the respect it deserves,” James McKenna of the Spirit Of Shankly group said.

But he added: “We need to be sure that any new owners do not place us in the same situation as the current ones. January should be a time spent on concluding transfer signings, not having to look into the distance for new owners to save us from the present ones.”

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