Grabiner joins Liverpool dream team as takeover dispute heads for courts

One Essex Court heavyweight Lord Grabiner QC is set to represent Liverpool Football Club as the boardroom wrangle over the club’s future moves into the courts tomorrow morning (12 October).

Grabiner (pictured) has been instructed to advise Liverpool FC’s board alongside magic circle firm Slaughter and May on the proposed £300m sale of the club to Boston Red Sox owners New England Sport Ventures (NESV).

One Essex Court’s Jamie Goldsmith, son of former attorney general Peter Goldsmith, has also been instructed to provide advice.

The deal is dependent on the resolution of a dispute between the clubs’s board, which supports the sale to NESV, and US owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, who believe the offer undervalues the club.

City firm Peters & Peters is advising Hicks and Gillett on the dispute, fielding a team led by partner Jonathan Tickner. The white-collar crime specialist firm has instructed Paul Girolami QC of Maitland Chambers alongside junior counsel from Brick Court Chambers.

The case is due to be heard by Mr Justice Floyd at 10.30am tomorrow morning (12 October).

Slaughters corporate partner Nigel Boardman is advising the club on the takeover, while dispute resolution partner Efstathios Michael is advising on contentious matters.

US firms Weil Gotshal & Manges and Shearman & Sterling are advising Hicks and Gillett and NESV respectively on transactional aspects of the proposed takeover.

Last week Hicks and Gillett attempted to remove managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre from the Liverpool board, and replace them with Hicks’ son Mack Hicks and Lori Kay McCutcheon, a vice president at Hicks Holdings, in a bid to retain control of the club.

In a statement issued last week, Liverpool chairman Martin Broughton said: “I am disappointed that the owners have tried everything to prevent the deal from happening and that we need to go through legal proceedings in order to complete the sale.”

“Part of the terms of me taking on the role [of chairman] was that [Hicks and Gillett] gave a written undertaking that only I could change the board and they would not interfere and frustrate any reasonable sale. And this is frankly an abuse of these undertakings.”

Grabiner, who was called to the Bar in 1968 and took silk in 1981, is regarded as one of the biggest names at the commercial Bar, and has acted on a raft of high-profile cases, including representing HM Treasury in the Northern Rock shareholders dispute and Total UK on litigation resulting from the 2005 Buncefield oil disaster.

Goldsmith, who was among Legal Week‘s 2009 Stars at the Bar, advised Marks & Spencer in 2004 on obtaining an injunction against magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer from acting on Philip Green’s takeover bid. Freshfields was found to have a conflict of interest in advising Green, having previously worked for M&S.