The news of an imminent take over of Liverpool has understandably been greeted with a combination of elation and relief by the Anfield club’s fans who have long campaigned for an end to the reign of the current American owners. So far all attention seems to have focused on the prospective bid of Jian-hua “Kenny” Huang despite the insistence by Martin Broughton that the club have received at least six bids in the last week. Since Mr Huang’s interest was first reported there has been a media frenzy ranging from claims that he is personally responsible for the decision of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres to remain at the club, having contacted them directly last week, to promises of huge investment in both the team and infrastructure, including the completion of the long awaited stadium.
While the fans will of course be forgiven for getting carried away in the media storm, having endured three years of broken promises by Hicks and Gillett, there is reason for caution. Firstly, there is no guarantee that Huang’s will be the preferred bid when the board make their decision at the end of next week. There has so far been little detail of any of the other bidders with the exception of Yahya Kirdi, the former Syrian footballer who is said to be fronting a bid by a consortium from the Middle East. Secondly, the promises of investment bear echoes of those made by the American pair when they took over in February 2007 which have failed to materialise to the levels suggested.
If Huang’s bid is successful a deal could be concluded quickly as he has been linked with an approach previously which could reduce the time required for due diligence. However, it is thought that rather than backing the bid personally Huang is fronting an approach on behalf of a sovereign wealth fund, namely the Chinese state. The link to China has already led to cries of “You’ll never wok alone” from Liverpool’s poor blue rivals across the park but the Chinese link does not diminish the bid in any way, in fact it should provide added credibility, but fans will want the ownership of the club to be completely transparent.
Of considerable reassurance will be Huang’s track record of stewardship and investment in sport. His capital market experience has lead to major sponsorship deals in Basketball and Baseball and could extend Liverpool’s reach into the highly lucrative Chinese market as well as the US where Huang conducts a large share of his sporting business.
Ultimately, whoever takes control of the club they will be subjected to severe scrutiny by the fans as a result of the Hicks and Gillett legacy and will need to deliver on their promises to win over the loyal Kop supporters. Huang could offer significant new revenue to the club and the fact that he is reported to want a quick resolution to enable Roy Hodgson to strengthen the team in this transfer window will be seen as a very positive sign. If he can do this and continue to invest in the club while providing Hodgson with the means to deliver results on the pitch then he will be welcomed by the fans and could provide the kind of long term stability that the Anfield faithful have been craving.