By Shane McGinley
Sameer Al Ansari says deal was “almost signed”
Dubai International Capital “almost signed” a takeover of Liverpool Football Club in 2007, the company’s former CEO has revealed.
In an interview in this week’s Arabian Business, Sameer Al Ansari – who was founding chairman of what was effectively Dubai’s sovereign wealth fund – admitted the deal was delayed because he was personally a huge fan of the club.
“We would have been the first to do it out of this region. As soon as they won the Champion’s League in 2005, we got serious about due diligence in 2006 and almost signed in January 2007.
"What delayed us is because everyone knew Sameer was a lifelong fan of Liverpool, including His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. So we did three times the amount of due diligence as I had to prove the business sense and there were very few clubs frankly where you can make a business sense,” he told the magazine.
Dubai’s bid fell through when the club’s then chief executive favoured instead a deal with American billionaires Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. The pair took over the club for $288m, but after running into huge debts, were forced to sell it soon after.
Al Ansari said: “At the time Liverpool, the financials, were reasonably good and the brand of the club was enormous and we felt that with the changes that was coming in TV rights and sponsorship and stadium naming rights there was a tremendous investment opportunity. We could have done it at $360m. I would have done it.”
Asked if Dubai would still be interested in buying such a club, he said: “Today, I don’t know. A lot has changed. If you follow the revenues they are enormous and increases from 2007 to now are about 200% with sponsorship and TV rights. There was an opportunity. Does it exist today? I think they are too expensive and you would have to take a gamble and buy a club in a lower league and hope to turn then around and throw a lot of money at them.”