Americans assume full control of Liverpool

American investors Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. assumed full control of Liverpool soccer club on Friday, securing more than 80 percent of the shares in the 18-time English champions.

The pair's takeover vehicle, Kop Football, told the London Stock Exchange it had received valid acceptances for 28,089 Liverpool shares, or 80.7 percent of the club. That means they have surpassed the 75 percent stake required to take unconditional control.

The Americans need just another 9.3 percent to force a compulsory purchase of every share. As a goodwill gesture, they extended Monday's deadline until March 26 to allow remaining small shareholders to agree to sell.

Gillett owns NHL team Montreal Canadiens, while Hicks owns the NHL's Dallas Stars and Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers.

Liverpool is the third English Premier League club under American ownership.

Malcolm Glazer, who owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, controls Manchester United, and Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner took over Aston Villa this season.

Hicks and Gillett will be co-chairmen of Liverpool, succeeding longtime chairman David Moores. Gillett's son, Foster Gillett, is expected to run the club on a day-to-day basis along with current chief executive Rick Parry.

The takeover clears the way for the club to move from 45,000-capacity Anfield to a new 60,000-seat stadium in nearby Stanley Park.

"It is an historic day for the club," Parry was quoted as saying in the Liverpool Echo newspaper. "It's obviously very pleasing to hear that George and Tom have reached the threshold they required and I'm sure they're equally delighted with the news.

"It has not come as a great surprise to us because from the moment we accepted the bid the response has been positive. We had heard earlier in the week a positive announcement was imminent."

Hicks and Gillett were at Anfield on Tuesday night to watch the Reds knock defending champion FC Barcelona out of the Champions League and reach the quarterfinals of European soccer's most prestigious cup competition. Liverpool was drawn Friday against Dutch team PSV Eindhoven, reports AP.

"That was like nothing I have ever heard or felt," Gillett said of the Barcelona match, reports AP.

"My first time at Anfield and everything I'd heard is true," Hicks said. "I've seen a lot of sporting events all around the world, but nothing comes close to that."

Parry said the takeover process should be completed by the time Hicks and Gillett return to watch Liverpool play Arsenal in the Premier League on March 31.

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