Fans of Liverpool Football Club are gripping the edges of their seats today, but not because it's two-all in the last seconds of overtime. The club's owners owe Royal Bank of Scotland and Wachovia 350 million quid ($578 million), and the loan is due to expire today.
Talks over a refinancing could be extended beyond the end of the day, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Why should Americans be interested in this story? Well for one thing, Liverpool is owned by two Americans, private equity investors, Tom Hicks and George Gillett Jr. They bought the club in 2007.
For another, it gives a window into the effects of the credit crunch (yes, credit is still being crunched) on corporations, particularly those acquired in leveraged buyouts.
In Liverpool's case a refinancing of their loan probably won't come cheap. Right now, it's priced at 3.5 percent over LIBOR, company reports say. With 3-month LIBOR at 0.5 percent, that equates to an annual interest rate of four percent. But these days banks are pretty stingy, and they're cranking up rates when and wherever they can. Which is presumably why the negotiation over the refinancing has gone down to the wire. A report from Bloomberg says RBS and Wachovia have probably asked the pair to put more of their own funds in the club and pay higher interest on a renewed credit line.
Fans are up in arms about Hays and Gillett. Here's one quote from the Bloomberg story.
"This is what they think this is, another sports commodity, a franchise -- something that can pass from hand to hand like a cheap girl in a bar," said Rogan Taylor, 63, founder of a group that is raising money to buy the Americans out. "The club is family."
No reaction from Old Trafford.