LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 06: American businessmen George Gillett (L) and Tom Hicks talk to the media after their takeover of Liverpool Football Club on February 6, 2007, in Liverpool, England. Gillett and Hicks have reached a deal, thought to be worth GBP470m, to buy the football club. Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett have confirmed their intention to sell Liverpool FC. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
I hate to say this guy is a mess, but... this guy is kind of a mess.
It's easy to blame the economy. It's easy to alibi and give him the benefit of the doubt, but this week's announcement that Gillett Jr. and Hicks would be selling Liverpool FC makes ALL three of his sports franchises currently involved in a change of ownership. Pardon the somewhat dim witted, knee-jerk analysis on my part, but how many other professional sports franchise owners are scraping pennies together to pay the banks? (More than we know, sure...) But how many are sitting on their proverbial lawn chairs watching a veritable garage sale of sports enterprises like Tom Hicks? Not many.
Some of us find ourselves asking the question: Why? And more specifically: Why us?
An answer won't be given, so in the mean time, fans of the Rangers, the Stars and now Liverpool will simply have to content themselves with the knowledge that the man will soon be gone from our beloved teams, all of professional sports, and more importantly: our payrolls, forever. (If we're lucky.)
I don't know if it's especially fair that 14 years of Tom Hicks ownership (producing a Stanley Cup and a bevy of Division titles) will be remembered only for it's botched ending, but frankly I've gone from defending the man to just wanting it to be over. (Tomorrow, if at all possible)
There's an old saying that "the squeaky wheel gets the oil." So it should come as no surprise that Hicks has given more quotes about Liverpool fans in less than 3 years than he has about us in nearly 15 years as owner of the Dallas Stars.
He recently told one new outlet, "When you feel fans turn against you it's very frustrating" regarding Liverpool FC fans. Hey, Tom. What about us? We're turning against you too. Hello?
Then again, to our credit, we're not calling up owners and threatening them in the middle of the night, so it's hard to compete for attention with stuff like that.
Gary Jacobson had a great article in the Dallas Morning News about Hicks last week, and said this:
Hicks bought the Stars for $84 million in 1996 and the Rangers for $250 million in 1998.
Business wasn't always good. In 2002, for example, the Rangers lost $45 million and the Stars lost $3 million, largely because of higher player payrolls, The News reported earlier.
[ ]...his problems are similar to those of other owners whose income depends on making deals in other businesses. When the deals slow or stop, as they have in this economic downturn, so does the income.
The question then becomes, no matter how rich, can an owner afford to keep supporting his teams from his own pocket?
Hicks decided early last year that he couldn't, and Hicks Sports Group stopped making interest-only payments on $525 million in loans for the Rangers and Stars. Hicks said he personally made some of the payments.
"In these times, I'm not willing to do that anymore," he said a year ago.
Which suggests that as far back as 2002, Hicks was eating losses for his sports teams but supporting them anyway because the rest of his private investments were thriving at least enough to cover the losses. Now everything is in the toilet and as a result, we have the lowest paid defense in the league.
So do you take the "that's not my problem" approach to this, or can you at least appreciate the effort and the winning that came with it for so many years, barring the last two?
"I've been in private equity for over 30 years, and I believe that Liverpool will prove to be one of the most profitable investments I ever made," Hicks said Friday to The Dallas Morning News.
Were I a Liverpool FC fan, I would be feeling pretty used by Hicks. He and Gillett made promises about a stadium and putting "star players" on the field that they did not deliver on, and now they exit having increased the clubs debt, with what will likely be a substantial profit.
Yet as a Stars fan, there's a little voice deep down inside somewhere telling me that I should look at the bigger picture when trying to put his ownership stint into perspective.
At least for the time being, that little voice can shut up. Watching the drama of the NHL playoffs unfold without Dallas participation is making me a bit short sighted and ungrateful to you, Mr. Hicks, no matter how unfair it may be. Please, very kindly, sell this team and be done with it.
How will you look back on Hicks' time in Dallas when it's all said and done?