Home / England / Liverpool FC fans to the banks: “Thanks But No Yank$!”

Liverpool FC fans to the banks: “Thanks But No Yank$!”

Texas billionaire Tom Hicks owns flailing U.K. Soccer English Premier League club LIVERPOOL FC; Fans take anger to the Banks —Literally

Liverpool FC fans protesting US ownership "Thanks But No Yank$!" Photo by David Rawcliffe / Propaganda via Liverpool Daily Post

Liverpool FC fans protesting US ownership "Thanks But No Yank$!" Photo by David Rawcliffe / Propaganda via Liverpool Daily Post

In the old days, English soccer hooligans settled scores with knives and broken bottles. As Texas billionaire Tom Hicks is learning this week, the weapons of choice these days—camera phones, Twitter and spam emails—can be almost as scary.

Over in Liverpool, the Hicks sighting was like an open-net goal for Alan Kayll, a 40-year-old cab driver who is a ringleader of the anti-Hicks campaign. Mr. Kayll quickly penned a form letter to J.P. Morgan and Deutsche officials urging them not to help Mr. Hicks refinance roughly £200 million ($313 million) that is owed to Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, stemming from his purchase of the team.

 

“If you join Tom Hicks in raping and pillaging Liverpool Football Club, then you will be making a very powerful enemy,” his letter read in part. “You are facing an energized, well-informed mass of Liverpool fans from around the world.”

He posted the letter online, along with the email addresses of executives at Deutsche and J.P. Morgan.

Alan Kayll protesting in Liverpool PHOTO by Thomas Kavanagh via The Wall Street Journal

Alan Kayll protesting in Liverpool PHOTO by Thomas Kavanagh via The Wall Street Journal

An hour later, a senior J.P. Morgan executive had already received 30 emails from Liverpool fans, with new messages landing every few minutes. “It’s totally viral right now,” the executive said, deleting emails as they arrived. Public-relations staff at Deutsche said they received hundreds.

Meanwhile, in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon, the melee was just beginning. Adam Eljarrah, an 18-year-old Liverpool fan attending New York University, saw Ms. McCloskey’s Twitter messages. He showed up outside Deutsche’s skyscraper on Park Avenue. The pre-med freshman carried a poster, popular among Liverpool supporters in England, declaring that Mr. Hicks and his co-owner are “Not Welcome ANYWHERE.”

Mr. Eljarrah says he loitered outside the building for about 45 minutes, hoping to confront Mr. Hicks. Around 6:30 p.m., Mr. Hicks emerged. According to a person familiar with the incident, the younger Mr. Hicks spotted Mr. Eljarrah—identifiable in his red-and-white Liverpool scarf—and told a nearby cop: “This guy is trouble.”

As the police officer intercepted Mr. Eljarrah, he says, he waved his sign and yelled, “Get out of our club!”

Liverpool fans aren’t the only ones lashing out at American ownership. Manchester United fans have mounted a campaign against the family of American businessman Malcolm Glazer, which owns the team and has loaded it with debt.

In Liverpool, fans who are angling to remove Mr. Hicks are sporting scarves bearing a “Thanks But No Yank$!” slogan.

Lately, financial institutions have borne the brunt of Liverpool’s rage. Fans have been flooding RBS with letters and phone calls urging the bank to seize the club and give Mr. Hicks the boot. Top executives’ inboxes sometimes have been hit with several hundred emails per day.

Despite the site’s menacing slogan and graphic, Mr. Kayll says his group is “totally against violence. We’re a group of passionate fans trying to save their football club. All professional people with families.”

The campaign hit Stephen Schwarzman, the billionaire co-founder of Blackstone Partners, whose GSO Capital Partners hedge fund considered participating in a deal to help Mr. Hicks refinance the RBS loan. By Monday, GSO had backed out of the talks. A Blackstone spokesman, Peter Rose, said the emails (including thousands aimed at Mr. Schwarzman) didn’t affect GSO’s decision not to participate in the deal.

That wasn’t the message Mr. Kayll got. Driving his cab in Liverpool Tuesday morning, he says he received a call from London-based GSO executive Michael Whitman. Mr. Kayll says Mr. Whitman told him GSO lost interest in part thanks to the pressure campaign. “He said, ‘We understand the passion of Liverpool supporters and obviously took that into consideration,'” Mr. Kayll says.

Mr. Whitman didn’t respond to requests for comment. Blackstone acknowledges that Mr. Whitman and Mr. Kayll spoke, but deny he said the email campaign forced GSO out of the deal.

Still basking in victory hours later, Mr. Kayll was euphoric when the Hicks photos from New York dropped into his lap. He crowed: “We know his every move.” READ FULL STORY by DAVID ENRICH And GREGORY ZUCKERMAN with contribution from Sara Schaefer Muñoz and Dan Fitzpatrick in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

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