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New York Times

 

Liverpool Fans Mount New Offensive Against Hicks

September 23, 2010, 1:27 pm

 

How much do Liverpool Football Club fans dislike the team’s owner, Thomas O. Hicks?

 

They’re sending blast e-mails to scores of American reporters to get their message across.

 

In one of the impassioned e-mails — which references the “special relationship” between the United States and Britain — the apparent fan despairs of Mr. Hicks’s ownership and efforts to raise money to help keep the team. (The Blackstone Group reportedly pulled out of talks to finance his bid.)

 

The e-mail is below:

 

Dear USA Media Executive/Outlet

 

*We gave you THE BEATLES and this is how you repay us?*

 

What happened to the *’Special Relationship’ *between the US and the UK?

 

Are you aware of how *Tom Hicks* is driving our beloved *Liverpool Football Club *into the ground?

 

How would you like it if a British “businessman” came over to the USA and destroyed the New York Yankees. Or the LA Lakers. Or the Washington Redskins?

 

Well, we are living Wayne Huizenga and the Florida Marlins all over again!

 

Please Google *”Tom Hicks + Liverpool”* to see what an embarrassment he is to the USA.

 

We would be grateful if you could help us by reporting our story in order that me might persuade Wall Street NOT to lend him the money he is currently trying to raise, to drive our football team into even more debt and despair.

 

Sorry about the mass email approach but we have tried everything else, and we feel like we are at the end of the road.

 

Thanks in anticipation

 

Fans of Liverpool Football Club

 

 

Wall Street Journal

 

A Texas Tycoon Learns a Lesson: Don't Mess With Liverpudlians

Tom Hicks Owns Flailing U.K. Soccer Club; Fans Take Anger to the Bank—Literally

 

By DAVID ENRICH And GREGORY ZUCKERMAN

 

In the old days, English soccer hooligans settled scores with knives and broken bottles. As Texas billionaire Tom Hicks is learning this week, the weapons of choice these days—camera phones, Twitter and spam emails—can be almost as scary.

 

Mr. Hicks, co-owner of England's hallowed Liverpool FC, is on the run from a mob of angry fans who blame him for the team's tailspin. The 118-year-old club was one of England's best when he bought it in 2007. Since then, the crippling debt load he took on to buy Liverpool has strained the team's finances and contributed to its woes on the pitch.

 

Now, Liverpool faithful are waging a fierce campaign to evict the American owner. Their strategy: Scare away banks and other financiers who might throw Mr. Hicks a lifeline, starving Mr. Hicks of needed cash and forcing him to sell. To do that, they are using the tools of the digital age to track Mr. Hicks' efforts to drum up money, then bombard would-be lenders with thousands of irate emails, phone calls and Tweets.

 

On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Hicks learned firsthand what it's like to be the prey in a digital hunt.

 

Around 3:40 p.m., as Mr. Hicks sat on a sidewalk bench in midtown Manhattan, he was spotted by Liverpool native Paul Wilson. It occurred to Mr. Wilson, a 35-year-old financial consultant, that the offices of Deutsche Bank AG and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. were on the same street. He guessed that Mr. Hicks and his son, Tom Hicks Jr., might be visiting the banks to plead for funds.

 

So Mr. Wilson whipped out his BlackBerry, snapped some photos, and zapped the images to his wife, Erin McCloskey. Then he trailed Mr. Hicks walking into the lobby of the building that houses Deutsche.

 

"I didn't throw my coffee on him, but the thought did cross my mind," Mr. Wilson said Wednesday.

 

Ms. McCloskey quickly posted the photos on Twitter and explained the circumstances.

 

Over in Liverpool, the Hicks sighting was like an open-net goal for Alan Kayll, a 40-year-old cab driver who is a ringleader of the anti-Hicks campaign. Mr. Kayll quickly penned a form letter to J.P. Morgan and Deutsche officials urging them not to help Mr. Hicks refinance roughly £200 million ($313 million) that is owed to Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, stemming from his purchase of the team.

 

"If you join Tom Hicks in raping and pillaging Liverpool Football Club, then you will be making a very powerful enemy," his letter read in part. "You are facing an energized, well-informed mass of Liverpool fans from around the world."

 

He posted the letter online, along with the email addresses of executives at Deutsche and J.P. Morgan.

 

An hour later, a senior J.P. Morgan executive had already received 30 emails from Liverpool fans, with new messages landing every few minutes. "It's totally viral right now," the executive said, deleting emails as they arrived. Public-relations staff at Deutsche said they received hundreds.

 

Neither bank is in talks with Mr. Hicks, said people familiar with the situation. Through a spokesman, Mr. Hicks declined to comment on Tuesday's events or his stewardship of the team.

 

The team's financial woes have hurt its performance. Liverpool finished last season in seventh place, a disaster for fans accustomed to being in England's top four. A team official said this week that the cost of servicing its debts is depleting club resources. Fans argue that makes it tougher to recruit top players.

 

Meanwhile, in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon, the melee was just beginning. Adam Eljarrah, an 18-year-old Liverpool fan attending New York University, saw Ms. McCloskey's Twitter messages. He showed up outside Deutsche's skyscraper on Park Avenue. The pre-med freshman carried a poster, popular among Liverpool supporters in England, declaring that Mr. Hicks and his co-owner are "Not Welcome ANYWHERE."

 

Mr. Eljarrah says he loitered outside the building for about 45 minutes, hoping to confront Mr. Hicks. Around 6:30 p.m., Mr. Hicks emerged. According to a person familiar with the incident, the younger Mr. Hicks spotted Mr. Eljarrah—identifiable in his red-and-white Liverpool scarf—and told a nearby cop: "This guy is trouble."

 

As the police officer intercepted Mr. Eljarrah, he says, he waved his sign and yelled, "Get out of our club!"

 

Liverpool fans aren't the only ones lashing out at American ownership. Manchester United fans have mounted a campaign against the family of American businessman Malcolm Glazer, which owns the team and has loaded it with debt.

 

In Liverpool, fans who are angling to remove Mr. Hicks are sporting scarves bearing a "Thanks But No Yank$!" slogan.

 

Lately, financial institutions have borne the brunt of Liverpool's rage. Fans have been flooding RBS with letters and phone calls urging the bank to seize the club and give Mr. Hicks the boot. Top executives' inboxes sometimes have been hit with several hundred emails per day.

 

A few weeks ago, some fans started a Facebook page encouraging people to boycott RBS. Mr. Kayll, the cab driver, drew up lists of financial institutions Mr. Hicks is believed to have approached, posting them on a website he helps run that urges fans to help oust Mr. Hicks.

 

The site features an image of a blood-drenched RBS logo. The site's motto: "We will go as far as we need to."

 

Despite the site's menacing slogan and graphic, Mr. Kayll says his group is "totally against violence. We're a group of passionate fans trying to save their football club. All professional people with families."

 

The campaign hit Stephen Schwarzman, the billionaire co-founder of Blackstone Partners, whose GSO Capital Partners hedge fund considered participating in a deal to help Mr. Hicks refinance the RBS loan. By Monday, GSO had backed out of the talks. A Blackstone spokesman, Peter Rose, said the emails (including thousands aimed at Mr. Schwarzman) didn't affect GSO's decision not to participate in the deal.

 

That wasn't the message Mr. Kayll got. Driving his cab in Liverpool Tuesday morning, he says he received a call from London-based GSO executive Michael Whitman. Mr. Kayll says Mr. Whitman told him GSO lost interest in part thanks to the pressure campaign. "He said, 'We understand the passion of Liverpool supporters and obviously took that into consideration,'" Mr. Kayll says.

 

Mr. Whitman didn't respond to requests for comment. Blackstone acknowledges that Mr. Whitman and Mr. Kayll spoke, but deny he said the email campaign forced GSO out of the deal.

 

Still basking in victory hours later, Mr. Kayll was euphoric when the Hicks photos from New York dropped into his lap. He crowed: "We know his every move."

—Sara Schaefer Muñoz and Dan Fitzpatrick contributed to this article.

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Odd you should mention the boycott

 

I was wondering yesterday whether the press view of the club would be different were it not for the boycott. The press are hardly independent minded and take their cues from places like Sky - owned by....

 

Not in any way saying that the boycott should stop but the "drip of negativity" - be it rotation, zonal marking, underachieving, counter-attacking football ad infinitum - may be different were it not for the boycott. Like I said, I was wondering.....

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Odd you should mention the boycott

 

I was wondering yesterday whether the press view of the club would be different were it not for the boycott. The press are hardly independent minded and take their cues from places like Sky - owned by....

 

Not in any way saying that the boycott should stop but the "drip of negativity" - be it rotation, zonal marking, underachieving, counter-attacking football ad infinitum - may be different were it not for the boycott. Like I said, I was wondering.....

funny you should mention Sky, owned by..........the same person who owns the WSJ

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i emailed a load of stuff to a couple of WSJ contacts earlier this week. it's amazing how powerful the s*n boycott material available online can be at times like this. plus the cohen stuff 4pool et al did over the pond added good weight too.

 

Good work that. Front page of the WSJ is nothing to sniff at.

 

Our situation is now firmly front and centre on Wall Street.

 

When we are sold, it could be that the big institutions will realize what a powerful entity LFC truly is. That could be a good thing for stadium financing, sponsorship etc.

Edited by New York Red
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