During the main course at the 2002 Building Awards, Didy Morgan gave her new husband some surprising information. She told him that she had bought a horse earlier that day. "What do you mean, you bought a horse?" the perplexed newlywed demanded. "We didn't have a grey one," came the perfectly logical explanation.
A little more than two years later, it was the turn of Didy's husband, Steve Morgan, the multimillionaire founder of Redrow Homes, to break the news. He was, he said, planning to buy a big chunk of Liverpool Football Club. That was what he wanted – the question was, would Liverpool want him?
What Morgan had in mind was a £50m investment package that would have effectively ended the reign of chairman David Moores. But the proposal was rejected by the Liverpool FC board in March. The story then took a bizarre twist when Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister of Thailand, offered to buy 30% of the club for £65m – and looked like he was succeeding.
Morgan was infuriated. He talked about putting in a counter-offer that the club would have to take seriously. Didy tried to talk him out of it, and as they lay in bed together at 2am on Monday of last week, she thought she had succeeded. Her husband agreed that it would be best if he gave up his dream of buying his way on to the board of the club he had supported all his life.
But support runs deep in the veins of Reds fans. As one construction industry source, who has known Morgan for a decade, puts it: "He gets very emotional about Liverpool, and especially about the football club." Didy laughingly confirms this: "I woke at 5am that same morning, to find Steve awake having already drafted the letter.
He is willing to commit an awful lot of his wealth to the club."
The letter was addressed to the Anfield board, and it included a £73m cash injection, a deal that would allow existing shareholders to buy additional stock in a new share issue. Morgan said he would underwrite the issue, meaning that he would buy any stock not taken up by the shareholders. Potentially, this could raise his own stake from 5% to 35% and give him the biggest holding in the club.
As he was being driven in that morning to Jersey airport, he dictated the letter over the phone to his personal assistant, Beverley, back in the UK. The offer arrived at Anfield later that day.
The move was a relief to Reds fans. Like Morgan, they were not happy with the Thai prime minister's bid. They did not want to be linked with the leader of a regime that has such an appalling human rights record – according to official statistics, 2245 people were killed by Thai police in one three-month period last year.
The fans also did not believe Thaksin's claim that he was a keen Liverpool supporter – a Scouser at heart. A typical example was the fan known as "Briman" on the official Liverpool FC website, who angrily – and ungrammatically – argued in a chatroom: "This Thai fella says he's a lifelong Liverpool fan, RUBBISH, you can see him on the net holding up a UTD shirt standing next to Ferguson, and if my memory serves me right he tried to invest in UTD but nothing ever came of it, he done exactly the same thing with Real Madrid a couple of years ago, he also had or tried to have a financial investment in Fulham, he supports whoever will bring him the most popularity with the voters."
In contrast, 87% of fans surveyed by the Liverpool Echo backed Morgan's proposal.
It was a choice between a lad who had been a supporter all his life and a Thai prime minister who can’t name the players
Few think that Morgan's offer was driven by sound business calculations. He is an emotional man and he has a lot of money to be emotional with – Morgan sold most of his 34.5% stake in Redrow in 2000 for £240m.
Born in the Merseyside area of Garston, Morgan has supported Liverpool all his life. In a speech last Tuesday, he said: "I have only one goal and that's to help Liverpool to once again become the dominant football club in England and Europe."
When he was in charge of Redrow, Morgan ensured that the company had an executive box at the ground, wining and dining clients as he E E watched the likes of Kenny Dalglish, John Barnes and Peter Beardsley scythe through opposition defences. The current Redrow chief executive Paul Pedley recalls the first game he went to with Morgan, when he was the company's finance director nearly 20 years ago.
"I don't really have a team, but my wife's family are Aston Villa fans. So, what do you know? The first game I went to with him was Liverpool vs Villa. I said may the best team win. He smiled."
Apparently Morgan was not smiling when the game ended in a draw. "Steve is a Scouser through and through. He is a passionate supporter," says Pedley.
When Morgan walked into Anfield stadium for the final game of the season last Saturday, he found himself mobbed by fans. This was not unexpected – Didy had bought a new outfit for the occasion.
A private man, Morgan had mixed emotions about the fans crowding round him: "I don't actually particularly like all this publicity. It feels strange for me to have this kind of reception." Despite liking to be inconspicuous, he hints at a rapport with the fans: "There were hundreds of them. For the supporters it was a choice between a homegrown lad who has been a supporter all his life and a Thai prime minister who can't name the players."
Two days previously, Morgan's offer had effectively collapsed. The board argued that his offer was "not attractive" and undervalued the club. Morgan was not in the country and only heard the news over the phone. Thaksin was in pole position, and by Tuesday of this week it was announced that the parties had agreed to his offer in principle.
It was speculated that Morgan might yet raise his offer. This now seems unlikely. He told Building this week: "It was pretty apparent that the board was not willing to speak to me about any kind of deal. If nothing else, I hope that I have highlighted the failures of management and board levels."
Throughout the process Morgan had been critical of the running of the club, and in particular the manager, Gerard Houllier. This may have been a mistake, because although Houllier has been criticised for his team's dip in form, he has had some success, having won six trophies in his five years at the club. Morgan's hint that he would want to sack Houllier if he got on the board certainly looked clumsy, given that a deal had not been concluded.