Why Tom Hicks Will Not Go Quietly

Anfield has exploded in a flurry of activity as predicted, the October 6th deadline has come and gone and a last minute bid of £300m pounds from New England Sports Ventures, owners of the Boston Red Sox, has been accepted by the board.  But Tom Hicks has no plans to go quietly into that good night, in fact he is doing his best impression of a stung Tasmanian devil and understandably so as he and George Gillette stand to lose 144m pounds if the sale goes forward.  Hicks is contesting the sale on the grounds that the board did not have the proper authority to accept the bid from John W. Henry, owner of New England Sports Ventures, and has moved the battle into the courts to stall the sale.  In addition to the legal challenge Hicks has appointed a new board which he insists has control over the club.

While Hicks’ resistance to an ‘undervalued’ sale and his subsequent actions is not surprising, it is puzzling, however, when the alternative is considered.  Supposing that he is successful in blocking the sale there would still be little time to find the higher price he is presumably looking for.  The past months have proven that there are few buyers willing to pay anything approaching the £600m asking price desired by the departing owners and with less than a week remaining before a seizure by the Royal Bank of Scotland investors must surely realize that a better bargain is not long away.  Hicks is gambling that the threat of deducted points in administration will flush out interested buyers to prevent a takeover by RBS.  Unfortunately, the game is stacked against him as it is doubtful that Liverpool would be allowed to go into administration, and surely he must know this.

So why the stubborness? Why the fight if the odds of success are small and the potential for loss great?  There is an explanation beyond business strategy and brinksmanship,  a simple psychological twitch that affects many investors: refusing to accept a loss.  It has been proven in many experiments that accepting a financial loss causes the same psychological distress as other pain stimuli; investors are much more willing to take gains than to realize losses and Tom Hicks is sitting on quite a loss.  Chasing the slim hope of an irrational, last-minute buyer appearing allows Hicks to avoid the finality of surrendering Liverpool to John Henry’s bid…at least for one more week.

Why Tom Hicks Will Not Go Quietly

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