Thais want bigger say at Liverpool

BANGKOK: Thailand is pressing for a bigger say in the running of English Premier League club Liverpool, including more seats on the board, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his chief negotiator said yesterday. 

The level of Thai influence in the club’s affairs has become a sticking point in negotiations over Thaksin’s 4.6bil baht (US$113mil) bid for a 30% stake in Liverpool. 

Thai newspapers have reported that the two sides are haggling over seats on the board, with the Thais demanding two seats and Liverpool offering one. 

The club are 51% owned by chairman David Moores, whose family has had control for half a century, and 9.9% owned by television company Granada. 

Thaksin told reporters the Moores holding would be diluted to 35% if the deal went through. 

“The Thais would have 30% and therefore our ratio of directors on the board should be high,” he said. 

“If we agree with what they have proposed, the deal could be done quickly. But we don’t because we want them to follow us.” 

Deputy Commerce Minister Pongsak Raktapongpisal, the chief Thai negotiator, said the two major shareholders “should have equality on the board and management”. 

“I have sympathy for the majority shareholder who has held 51% for over 50 years. So when they are asked to lessen their power, we should give them some time to think,” Pongsak told a Bangkok radio station. 

Pongsak denied media reports that the two sides were at loggerheads over Liverpool’s merchandising rights in Asia, saying this would be worked out later. 

But he said the Thais did want a say in the business side of the club. 

“We don’t want to boast that we are experts on professional football, but in trade, financing and marketing, we are second to none,” Pongsak said. 

Thaksin has said the Thai offer would inject £45mil (US$80.7mil) into the club, who need investment to buy new players and help fund construction of a bigger stadium. 

The rest will go to buy shares from existing shareholders. 

Critics say the money will be wasted but Thaksin believes the deal will benefit Thai football and the country. 

Thailand’s Cabinet approved a plan on Tuesday to set up a new company to manage the investment, and raise funds to finance the purchase through a one-off state lottery. – Reuters 

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