LONDON (Reuters) - Liverpool’s ownership battle rumbled on Thursday as the High Court ruled against Tom Hicks and George Gillett, only for the American pair to demand the club’s chairman be jailed for contempt of court.
A High Court ruling on Wednesday had set up Liverpool to be sold for 300 million pounds ($479.8 million) to New England Sports Ventures (NESV), before Gillett and Hicks obtained a temporary block in a Texas district court.
In response, lawyers for chief creditor Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) went back before the judge in London and he granted an injunction to restrain the Dallas court ruling, saying the case had no connection to Texas.
Undaunted, Hicks and Gillett returned to the Dallas court, filing for contempt and demanded that chairman Martin Broughton and other defendants be filed and jailed.
That case was adjourned and will resume at 1200GMT Friday -- three hours before the British High Court’s deadline for the American duo to comply with their ruling.
Amid the transatlantic legal wrangling, rival Singaporean bidder Peter Lim announced he was pulling out of his 320 million-pound offer.
The latest, and most extraordinary, day in the saga of which American businessmen own a football club in the north west of England began with lawyers for RBS -- who are attempting to secure the repayment of 240 million pounds in loans -- returning to the High Court.
In front of the same Judge, Mr Justice Floyd, who ruled in their favor on Wednesday, they sought an injunction to stop the club’s American owners continuing with their U.S. legal action.
“It is an abuse of process, unconscionable and an affront to justice... a plain attempt to frustrate and impede the proceedings,” the Press Association reported Richard Snowden QC, for the bank, as saying.
“Plainly it is a bid to frustrate this court in the exercise of its jurisdiction.”
Snowden added that Hicks and Gillett’s claim that they were victims of an “epic swindle” and “grand conspiracy” over the club’s sale were “wild and scurrilous” assertions with no evidence to support them.
The Judge found in the bank’s favor, saying that his ruling was not aimed at the Dallas court but at Hicks and Gillett and gave the duo until 1500GMT on Friday to comply with his orders.
“The owners’ behavior conclusively demonstrates just how incorrigible they are,” he said. “They are absolutely determined to stop this transaction in its tracks and they have no lawful justification for behaving in this way.”
While all this was happening Lim, frustrated and angry that his bid had been ignored, withdrew his 320 million pounds offer.
“It has become clear to me that the Board is intent on selling the club to NESV to the exclusion of all other parties, regardless of the merits of their bids,” the Singapore businessman said in a statement.
If RBS and the Liverpool board thought that their High Court victory and the strong words of the judge would force Hicks and Gillett to cave in, they soon found otherwise as the duo, who on Wednesday claimed $1.6 billion in damages, immediately filed a motion for contempt.”
The motion asked for the “incarceration of defendants until they cure themselves of contempt and fine the defendants for their actions” and requested a daily fine of $50,000 be imposed until the contempt of court was ended.
The case was adjourned and will reconvene on Friday, just as Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson holds his regular news conference to preview the weekend’s match.
On Sunday Liverpool face city rivals Everton but for once the cherished derby will be relegated to “any other business” on an agenda dominated by the billionaires’ battle for ownership.
(Additional reporting by Simon Evans)
Editing Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond