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Wednesday, 20 December, 2000, 18:55 GMT
ENIC: a firm of two halves
Sir Alan Sugar and Terry Venables
Sir Alan and Terry Venables take control of Spurs in 1991
The struggle for control of Tottenham Hotspur has pitched Mr Byrite boy, backed by a Bahamas-based billionaire, against the Amstrad king.

And reports on Wednesday indicated that Daniel Levy would at last win promotion from season ticket holder into a regular in the Spurs directors' box.

Mr Levy, born to the family behind the retailer Mr Byrite, has for two years attempted to add Spurs to the portfolio of European football clubs controlled by ENIC, the leisure firm of which he is managing director.

ENIC first tried in 1998 through a deal valuing the club at 80m.

In July, the firm tried again, only for the deal to flounder when Sir Alan Sugar, Spurs chairman and founder of Amstrad, held out for a price of 120p a share, valuing the club at 120m.

Billionaire backing

ENIC's current offer values Tottenham at 81m, if reports are correct that ENIC will pay 22m for a 27% stake in the club.

Daniel Levy, managing director, ENIC
On the ball: Daniel Levy has led ENIC's expansion

So one up for Mr Levy, observers might think.

But then Mr Levy is backed by Joe Lewis, a Bahamas-based businessman who made billions from dealing in international currency and futures markets.

That is the same Mr Lewis who, in July 1999, made headlines for suggesting the euro could fall below parity against the dollar. The euro currently stands at about $00.90.

Firm of two halves

And ENIC is indeed, appropriately enough in the soccer business, a firm of two halves.

Besides being built around the Levy/Lewis partnership, its operations are divided between promising sports and gaming businesses, and a struggling entertainment arm.

And while the firm has pleased fans, bringing success to the five football teams in which it has a significant interest, it has not proved quite such a winner for investors.

ENIC shares, which reached a peak of 382.5p in March, stood at 124p on Wednesday.

And shareholders do not even have the comfort of a dividend to look forward to.

Mr Levy declines to spend money on shareholders, or indeed himself - he is reported to take home just 10,000 a year from his work at ENIC.

Empire building

The company's money is spent on building capital value.

Rangers player Michael Mols
Glasgow Rangers: ENIC owns 20%

With Mr Lewis' support, Mr Levy has turned ENIC (which stands for English National Investment Company) from a finance operation into a 135m leisure concern.

The firm in May spent 500,000 buying gambling website UKbetting.com, and took a stake in the Streets Online e-tail chain.

ENIC also runs the Warner Brothers Studio Stores chain in the UK, a restaurant in Las Vegas, and last year failed in a 222m bid for Wembley Stadium.

Football interests

And then there is the five-strong football club portfolio.

ENIC's football holdings
96.7% of Slavia Prague
99.9% of Vicenza Calcio
50% of FC Basel
47% of AEK Athens
20.2% of Glasgow Rangers

Three of the clubs - Slavia Prague, AEK Athens and FC Basel - qualified for this season's UEFA Cup.

Rangers, of which ENIC owns one fifth, earned a place in the group stage of the Champion's League, although since then it has slipped back and is in the midst of a disappointing season.

Vincenza Calcio gained promotion to Italy's top division, Serie A.

Tottenham, meanwhile, finished 10th last season in the UK Premier League, and currently stand at 11th place.

Tottenham fans will be hoping that they will follow ENIC's other clubs in qualifying for European action next year.

But any higher hopes than that are put in proportion by Ukbetting.com, the gambling site owned by ENIC, which gives Spurs a 500-1 chance of winning the Premiership this season.

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See also:

08 Jan 99 | The Company File
Wembley bid approach confirmed
14 Sep 98 | The Company File
Spurs reject takeover bid
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