Anil Ambani ‘deadly serious’ about buying Newcastle United

August 4th, 2008 - 4:29 pm ICT by IANS  


London, Aug 4 (IANS) Reliance Communications chairman Anil Ambani is expected to make a series of proposals to the owners of English Premier League football club Newscastle United in a possible 260 million pound takeover bid, newspapers here reported Monday. Although Newscastle owner Mike Ashley has dismissed the reports carried in the News of the World as “absolute rubbish”, a number of newspapers said a deal is in the works, and that the two sides may have been talking for weeks.

The Daily Telegraph quoted a source close to the deal as saying Ambani, the world’s sixth richest person according to Forbes magazine, is “deadly serious” about the deal and that his legal advisers are expected to contact Ashley in the next few days.

Ashley, a sportswear tycoon who bought the club for 134.4 million pounds last year and is the 25th richest person in Britain, will then have 10 days to decide on the Ambani offer.

With the Singapore-based investment company Profitable Group also reported to be eyeing the club, several British papers said Ambani is not interested in haggling and that if it came to a bidding war, he would prefer to walk away and turn his attention to other football clubs.

These could include Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and Everton, all of which enjoy large fan bases.

“His people will put a set of proposals to Ashley and if they don’t like them they will say ‘that’s it’ and turn their attention elsewhere. They won’t be messed about,” the Daily Telegraph quoted the source as saying.

“They see Newcastle as a massive club with vast potential. They know they already attract 50,000-plus crowds and wonder what would happen if they get back into the Champions League. But they also see India as an untapped market as well,” the source told the paper.

However, the Independent said Ashley was reluctant to sell the club for less than 300 million pounds and that this may prove to be a stumbling block.

Another potential difficulty could arise from differences over the ownership structure of the club.

Both Ambani and Profitable Group are reported to have demanded complete control. But Ashley last month said he preferred a partnership, citing the model of the London club Queens Park Rangers, which is co-owned by another Indian billionaire, Lakshmi Niwas Mittal.

Mittal, the world’s fifth richest man, bought a 20 percent stake in the unfancied Rangers last December for a reported sum of 1.6 million pounds, and is co-owner along with Formula One racing tycoons Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore.

Newcastle United is one of the biggest football clubs in England, with a string of successes to their name and its players include former England captain Alan Shearer.

Earlier this year, the club announced that Kevin Keegan, former Newcastle manager and one of the greatest England players ever, was returning to the club as manager after a gap of 11 years.

Both Ambani and Profitable Group are willing to provide the popular Keegan with 100 million pounds in transfer funds for new players, newspapers said.

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