Wed, Oct 13, 2010 - Page 20 News List

Billionaire raises stakes in bid to buy English giants

AP AND REUTERS, SINGAPORE

Singapore billionaire Peter Lim raised his offer for Liverpool FC to £320 million (US$507 million) yesterday, with an additional £40 million to buy new players.

Lim said that as part of the offer he would pay off £200 million of the club’s debt. Lim had previously offered £300 million for the club.

“I am committed to rebuild the club,” Lim said in a statement. “I believe that if its massive debt burden can be removed, the club would be able to focus on improving its performance on the pitch.”

Lim, 57, said he would not need any financing to fund his offer and that all the money would come from his cash reserves. Liverpool, who won the last of their 18 English league titles in 1990, are off to their worst start to a season since 1953 and are mired in the relegation zone.

“I will be injecting £40 million in cash into the club for [manager] Roy Hodgson to bring in new players during the upcoming transfer window,” Lim said. “Liverpool needs to start winning again.”

Royal Bank of Scotland, which holds the bulk of Liverpool’s debt, is trying to force through the sale of the Premier League club to New England Sports Ventures, the owners of the Boston Red Sox, over the objection of the current American owners, Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr.

The case was being heard in London’s High Court yesterday.

The son of a fish dealer, Lim graduated with a degree in accounting and finance from the University of Western Australia, and became a stockbroker in the 1980s for wealthy Indonesian clients.

Most of his fortune comes from his 5 percent ownership of Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil trader. Lim bought the stake in the early 1990s for US$10 million and it’s now worth about US$1.5 billion.

Lim became a private investor in 1996 and is the second-largest stakeholder in clothing retailer FJ Benjamin. He also has large stakes in education and logistics companies, a restaurant and real estate.

People who know Lim said his interest in Liverpool stems from his love of soccer, and he recently donated S$10 million (US$7.65 million) to the Singapore Olympics Foundation for scholarships for promising young athletes from poor families.

However, they added he would expect a financial return from Liverpool if successful with his bid and would not be content with just winning trophies.

“He is a shrewd investor and a contrarian investor who has turned around companies,” said Mano Sabnani, a former newspaper editor and head of investment research at one of Singapore’s big three banks.

“Liverpool is a brand name that has fallen on hard times ... but if you take away the debt payments, the club is operationally profitable,” Sabnani said.

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