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Monday, September 14, 1998 Published at 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK

Business: The Company File

Mancunian rhapsody

Roger Taylor, who became a rock legend with the best selling band Queen, has emerged as the mystery benefactor who is backing Manchester United fans in their battle against a controversial £623m takeover of the club from Rupert Murdoch's satellite television company BSkyB.

Mr Taylor has pledged £10,000 to the Independent Manchester United Supporters Association, who are determined to fight BSkyB's takeover attempt.

The association's spokesman Lee Hodgkiss said:"It was a welcome surprise and gave us a huge lift. We didn't know Roger Taylor was a United fan and to be honest we are not sure if he is.But he is obviously concerned for the ordinary football supporter."

Singling out Murdoch

The money will help fund a supporters meeting due to be held on Tuesday to mount the campaign against Mr Murdoch.

Mr Taylor's publicists said that he would also release a special edition of his forthcoming solo single to include an additional track entitled "Dear Mr Murdoch", a song he has penned to the media mogul.

Mr Taylor said in a statement: "I heard on the news that IMUSA desperately needed the means to mobolise its opposition to the mighty Goliath, As I was in a position to help I felt compelled to do so."

Rival bid?

Mr Taylor's involvement in the campaign to stop Mr Murdoch's bid comes amid suggestions that another mystery bidder could mount a rival takeover attempt for the club.

[ image: Manchester United could face a rival bid]
Manchester United could face a rival bid
Salomon Smith Barney, the US investment group, has confirmed it is acting for an unnamed client which is reported to be considering trumping BSkyB's offer with a £700m bid for Manchester United.

The rival bidder could enter the fray if BSkyB has trouble getting its bid past the UK competition authorities.

The board of Manchester United has already stated it is open to offers if anyone can better the £623m BSkyB bid for the club.

A spokeswoman for Salomon Smith Barney was unable to name the client.

She dismissed suggestions that her own company could be planning to gazump the BSkyB offer.

She would only say: "We have been asked to approach HSBC for information on behalf of a client."

Legal bindings

United's board would be legally bound to consider any offer of greater value than that from BSkyB.

BSkyB has already received undertakings from the directors of the club, who own 17% of the business, that they will sell their shares to them.

[ image: BSkyB's deal with Manchester United may not be a foregone conclusion]
BSkyB's deal with Manchester United may not be a foregone conclusion
The satellite broadcaster bought 9% of the club's shares on Friday.

Speaking on the BBC's Radio 5 Live on Sunday morning, the Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards, said the takeover of the club by the media giants was not a 'done deal'.

Lawyer Tom Usher told the programme on that there was still time for a rival bid to be made.

He said: "It is perfectly open for someone to come in and make a rival bid.

"This is far from being a done deal. The Office of Fair Trading will look at this takeover and weigh up the volume of complaints and analyse if it is against the public interest."

Mr Edwards conceded there was a possibility that BSkyB may lose out on United.

He added: "You are honour bound to listen to a bid. You are advised by your merchant bankers and they will tell you whether to discuss a deal or not."

A spokesman for BSkyB remained "very confident" his company's bid for United would be successful, and declined to comment on Salomon Barney's statement.

He said: "We think it [BSkyB's offer] is in the best interests of the club, the fans and the shareholders of Manchester United."

Some City analysts believe that a rival bid is unlikely, with BSkyB in the best position to win control of the club.

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