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Gillett targets Liverpool fans in Latin America
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2007-02-07 15:41

The U.S. sports tycoons buying Liverpool see opportunities to build the Premier League club's following in Latin America and will be cautious about spending too much on players, one of them said on Tuesday.

"We've got a Spanish coach and a number of Spanish players, and I think we can grow our fan base in Central and South America and Mexico," George Gillett told Reuters in a telephone interview, noting that his partner in the deal, Tom Hicks, has large investments in Latin American cable.

Liverpool, the five-times European Cup winners, already have many supporters in Asia but are still behind major rivals Manchester United when it comes to overseas interest.

Gillett and Hicks, who both own U.S. sports teams, said earlier on Tuesday they would pay 5,000 pounds per Liverpool share and purchase the club for 219 million pounds (US$428.5 million), including debt.

They plan to finance a new 60,000-seat stadium and are contemplating selling the naming rights to help pay for it. At the same time, Gillett said, they will be cautious about overspending as owners.

"In the history of sports, it's been proven time and again that teams that are bought and built with money aren't sustainable," said Gillett, who has owned TV stations, ski resorts and meat and poultry processors.

"The last time the Yankees won was 2000," he said, referring to the U.S. baseball powerhouse owned by George Steinbrenner who are repeatedly accused of paying top dollar for the best players at the expense of teams that cannot afford to do so.

"It's not just about spending money," Gillett said. "We believe in the Rafa (Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez) concept. That doesn't mean going out and being crazy with expenditures. It's finding the right people with the right mix and the right skill sets and different ages."


Gillett and Hicks also left open the possibility of raising ticket prices with Liverpool seats comparatively cheaper than some other top-flight teams.

"We know the facts," Gillett said, referring to the disparity in ticket prices. "I don't think we've come to a conclusion on that, though."

The pair sealed the deal for Liverpool after rivals Dubai International Capital withdrew a bid last week. Gillett credited his partner for the victory.

"When we added the Hicks family to our bid, we overcame apprehensions (Liverpool management) may have had about a single family, no matter how wealthy, competing in the new Premiership," Gillett said, adding that they did have the higher bid.

The duo join compatriots Malcolm Glazer and Randy Lerner in owning English soccer clubs, but the growing roster of Americans can present its own cultural stumbling blocks.

Gillett, for example, was quickly criticised in UK media for using the word "franchise" to describe Liverpool during a news conference on Tuesday.

"I understand it's a club," Gillett said. "I used franchise incorrectly at the news conference, but in later interviews corrected myself."

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