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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 May, 2004, 06:11 GMT 07:11 UK
'Business-fan' bidding for Liverpool
By Bill Wilson
BBC News Online business reporter

Liverpool businessman Steve Morgan
Mr Morgan: "No Roman Abramovich" but still prepared to invest millions

For someone who now stands on the brink of possible ownership of Liverpool Football Club, die-hard fan Steve Morgan has come a long way in the past 30 years.

Back in 1974, aged 21, he borrowed 5,000 from his father to buy his then employers, Wellington Civil Engineering, which was on the verge of going out of business.

That investment by the-then site engineer was the first step in a business career which peaked in the formation of housing giant Redrow.

He quit Redrow in 2000 - at the time he was going through a divorce from his first wife - and has cashed in shares worth 198m in the family homes company.

Hotel chain

Now, as he returns to make a second bid for the Merseyside club, the previous overture being rejected, he is showing a tenacity first evident in his business career.

"All I knew for certain was that I had a passion for the construction industry, and was determined to make Redrow a success," he recalled in a company history produced for staff members.

The offer is a counter bid to talks currently taking place with the Prime Minister of Thailand
Steve Morgan

He still owns a 50m stake in the firm which he floated in 1994, and is rated at 137th in the British rich list, with a reputed 312m fortune.

That fortune has been boosted by his hotel interests - during the 1990s he built up St David's Hotels, before cashing in five years ago.

He retains a 68m holding in De Vere hotels, who, in 1999, bought his two major hotels, (St David's Park Hotel in north Wales, and Carden Park Hotel, near Chester), and is now a major shareholder in the hotel chain.

Mr Morgan lives in Jersey but is spending 8m renovating Carden Hall, a stately home near his former hotel.

He plans soon to move back to the mainland with his second wife Didi - they married in 2002 - and their new baby. His finances were hit by a 100m pay-out to his former wife Pamela, who he met as a 13-year-old schoolboy.

'New money'

Mr Morgan, born in Garston, south Liverpool, has a 5% stake in Liverpool, and made his first bid for the club in March, worth about 50m.

The new deal proposed by Mr Morgan, who says he is "no Roman Abramovich", is worth 73m.

He said: " I wrote (on Tuesday) to the club's directors with details of my proposal which remains open for seven days.

A Liverpool fan looks at the statue of former manager Bill Shankly outside the Anfield stadium
Mr Morgan has been a supporter since the 1960s Shankly era

"That includes a rights issue open to all shareholders which will generate 61m of new money plus another share issue directed at supporters of the club which could generate a further 12m.

"The offer is a counter bid to talks currently taking place with the Prime Minister of Thailand."

Both parts of the plan would be underwritten by Mr Morgan's company, Bridgemere Investments.

Mr Morgan's new offer would allow the current chairman and majority shareholder David Moores to buy some of the new shares.

The businessman has been a long-term critic of the Liverpool owner, whose family has run the club for half-a-century.

'Love the club'

First-and-foremost Mr Morgan is a fan, who has followed the club since his schooldays when Bill Shankly was manager.

He has set out his counter bid to that of the Thai PM, Thaksin Shiniwatra, along those lines.

The 51-year-old said: "I believe the future of Liverpool Football Club is best served by the people who love the club the most - its supporters, of whom I am proud to be one."

However, in an age of increasing commercialism in football, he is crucially aware of the importance of branding and off-field commercial clout.

"Whether we like or not, Premiership football is big business and needs to be approached with a very businesslike and commercial attitude," he said in book The Boot Room Boys.

"Football clubs are big businesses today. They have to be commercial and Manchester United have led the way in the this.

"But at the same time it's all about playing football and those lads going out on the park and winning the matches - that's what it's all about and let's not lose sight of that."

'Opportunities missed'

And, perhaps ominously for those at the Anfield helm, he also said: "Running businesses is like running a football club and being Mr Nice Guy is seldom the right attribute to head and lead a successful organisation, whether it's a football club, a hotel or a house building company."

Author of The Boot Room Boys, an investigation of the management techniques used in Liverpool's heyday, is Stephen F Kelly.

He said: "His main criticism of Liverpool in the past, apart from lack of on-pitch success, is that they have failed to seize the business opportunities that the likes of Manchester United have capitalised on.

"His record show he has made a success of his businesses, and he would bring that same determination to succeed to Liverpool Football Club."




SEE ALSO:
Morgan reveals Anfield plan
12 May 04  |  Liverpool
Thais deny Liverpool link
16 Mar 04  |  Liverpool
Thai PM eyes Liverpool bid
23 Feb 04  |  Liverpool
Thai PM renews Fulham talk
30 Oct 03  |  Fulham


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