The decision to sell Liverpool Football Club to current owners FSG came after a split vote by the club鈥檚 board, the ECHO can exclusively reveal.

The revelation came from Sir Martin Broughton who seven years ago this week was brought in with a mandate to sell the Reds.

That he did - just within a six month deadline - ending the much despised reign of Tom Hicks and George Gillett at the club.

It has now emerged that the FSG forerunner New England Sports Ventures (NESV) got over the line in the sales process by a single vote.

Liverpool Football Club Chairman Martin Broughton (L) and Managing Director Christian Purslow (C), leave the High Court on October 13, 2010 in London, England.

Speaking in detail about the process for the first time to our new subscription service Anfield Extra, Sir Martin detailed how he was brought in as an independent chairman acceptable to both the owners and RBS Bank.

The bank was owed in the region of £300m by Hicks and Gillett and wanted the sale of the club to progress to make sure they got their money back.

Tom Hicks and George Gillett refused to take part in the sale vote - claiming the board was not legally entitled to make the decision - but Sir Martin revealed for the first time that the three remaining members were also spilt.

As well as the NESV bid, a second was on the table which was also acceptable to all three remaining members of the board - Broughton, managing director Christian Purslow and commercial director Ian Ayre.

While Sir Martin did not name the second bidder, remaining bound by confidentiality, court documents in America as part of an ongoing legal dispute there have revealed it to be Peter Lim, the Singapore businessman who went on to buy Valencia.

Peter Lim
Peter Lim

Sir Martin said: 鈥淚鈥檝e never disclosed the identity of the second bidder, whether it鈥檚 general knowledge or not it鈥檚 not for me to say.

鈥淏ut both bidders were entirely credible, both bidders came on to the scene quite late but arrived at very, very similar values which actually comforted me that that was the market value for the club (around £300m).

鈥淚t鈥檚 not that someone is necessarily getting a steal here - which is what Tom alleged and George - because you have two people. And if it was a steal one of them would have been higher (the offers) because they were both keen on getting it.

鈥淚 think I would have been happy with either bidder.?/p>

With time running out on RBS鈥檚 six month extension of the Hicks and Gillet loan in early October 2010, Broughton sent out details of the two bidders to the board members on a Saturday with plans to convene a meeting to agree the sale the following Tuesday.

Until this point - incredibly just three days before the sale - Broughton also revealed that Hicks and Gillett had no idea of the identity of the possible buyers because both had requested anonymity during the process.

George Gillett Tom Hicks at Liverpool FC press conference to confirm the sale to the American Millionaires. 6th January 2007

Indeed another buyer who had been linked with a bid for the Reds made it easier for the club chairman to keep the identity of the real buyer away from the then owners.

Sir Martin said: 鈥淲e were helped in that we鈥檇 had to keep the owners conscious of the fact there were bidders and I鈥檇 also informed them that one of the bidders was a US sports franchise owner.

鈥淭hey鈥檇 heard rumours that the New England Patriots鈥?owner Bob Kraft had been approached but had turned it down. They were convinced it was Kraft and he wasn鈥檛 going to bid - they didn鈥檛 take it seriously.

鈥淚t was a helpful diversion in many ways.?/p>

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft hoists the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Houston. The New England Patriots won 34-28 in overtime. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Sir Martin claims Hicks would have been keen to discourage potential buyers as he still did not want to sell Liverpool.

鈥淚t took me probably longer than it should have done to realise that I had to be less open with Tom than I would have liked to have been and that I should be as chairman.

鈥淏ecause I did feel that he was actively working against a sale.

鈥淭he two final bidders who did come both made it a condition of an offer that the owners were not informed. Which was interesting that both separately came to the conclusion they would only put a bid in to me if I didn鈥檛 tell the owners about them.?/p>

When Hicks and Gillett learned of the sale plans they tried to change the make-up of the board before the bids could be considered.

They attempted to remove Purslow and Ayre from the board and replace them with Hicks鈥?youngest son Mack and Lori Kay McCutcheon, an executive in Hicks Holdings.

鈥淚t was dropped on me about three minutes before the meeting. We started the meeting and they said the board was invalid because two of the board had been removed by them,?recalled Broughton.

He took a one hour adjournment to check his legal advice - and crucial trump card - that only he had the right to change the formation of the board.

Purslow and Ayre
Purslow and Ayre

He then reconvened the meeting to consider who would be the new owners of Liverpool FC.

鈥淭hey (Hicks and Gillett) refused to take part, saying the meeting was 鈥榰ltra vires鈥?(acting outside its authority).

鈥淲e continued with the board meeting and concluded that both bids were acceptable and we would set up a sub-committee to assess the two options.

鈥淲e stayed up into the early hours of the morning negotiating between the two and finally confirming that it was going to be Fenway/NESV.

鈥淚t was a close decision for all of us - it wasn鈥檛 unanimous - it was the position of the board.?/p>

Sir Martin also revealed that one of the bidders had been brought into the process by Ian Ayre.

He did not reveal which one though Ayre鈥檚 longstanding business links to the Far East might suggest it was Lim and it may have been Ayre who voted for their bid.

So how did Broughton tell John Henry he was the new owner of LFC?

John W. Henry delivers a statement in the offices of the law firm Slaughter and May to announce his purchase of Liverpool with Martin Broughton, Ian Ayre and Christian Purslow

鈥淭hey were still there in the office till midnight or whatever it was in a room so I went in and congratulated them. At that stage they looked at each other and said 鈥業 wonder whether we鈥檝e won or lost with this鈥?!?/p>

With the bids being very close in financial terms - those US court documents suggest Lim may have offered slightly more - what was it that swung the vote in favour of FSG?

Sir Martin said: 鈥淭here were two elements which swung it in favour of what is now Fenway for me.

鈥淥ne, and probably the most important one for me, was that they had demonstrated with the (Boston) Red Sox what they were planning to do with Liverpool...

鈥淭hey had a track record of taking a great, traditionally successful top club which had not enjoyed success recently, enjoyed success and converted it into a much more modern stadium, but still Fenway. They wanted to do the same with Anfield.

鈥淪o why would you leave a place like Anfield -with all that that鈥檚 got - to go somewhere that鈥檚 鈥榙oes it really fit Liverpool??I liked that.

鈥淭he other piece that came into it was that by now it was quite clear I was going to be sued. And I felt the Americans were much more aware of that piece of the process and much more likely to stand up through that piece of the process.?/p>

After approving the sale - and having his right to do so endorsed at a famous day in the High Court - Sir Martin was asked to stay on as chairman of LFC by the new owners.

However he decided it would not be right to do so and stepped aside, with Tom Werner taking on the role of Reds chairman which he currently still holds.

He has occasional contact with the owners and is convinced he found the right owners for Liverpool at the time.

鈥淚鈥檓 very happy we found the right people, I think they鈥檙e terrific owners, I really do.

鈥淭hey delivered on Anfield, which I think is fantastic...they brought in a fabulous manager, I think they鈥檝e done everything you could ask of them really.

鈥淚鈥檓 very pleased that I did it and I鈥檓 pleased with the outcome.?/p>

Want more? The full 90 minute interview of Sir Martin Broughton is available on Anfield Extra including how close RBS came to putting Liverpool into administration, the last days of Rafa Benitez, Kenny Dalglish's unique search for a new manager and the fans鈥?role in saving the Reds.

Try it out for a full month of brilliant content for just £4.99 - or two posh coffeees. No brainer isn鈥檛 it? Details here