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Last Updated: Friday, 18 February, 2005, 08:46 GMT
Channel 4 boss 'bids for Wembley'
Luke Johnson
Mr Johnson has a wide portfolio of business interests
Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson has emerged as the front-runner to buy six UK greyhound tracks put up for sale by gaming group Wembley, reports claim.

Mr Johnson, who has a number of restaurant interests, has signed an exclusivity agreement with Wembley, said the Financial Times.

The tracks up for sale are Belle Vue in Manchester, Wimbledon, Portsmouth, Oxford and two in Birmingham.

Their combined price is expected to be between 50m and 55m.

The Ivy

Last week, Wembley confirmed it was looking to offload the greyhound sites after agreeing a deal to sell its US operations in Rhode Island and Colorado to gaming consortium BLB Investors for around 182.5m.

The Financial Times said Mr Johnson's investment vehicle, Risk Capital Partners, had been in competition with at least three other bidders, including race track owner Arena Leisure and private equity group Phoenix Equity Partners.

A successful bid by Mr Johnson would increase a portfolio that includes several bingo clubs and Signature Restaurants, the chain behind The Ivy and Le Caprice in central London, as well as the Belgo chain of Belgian-style restaurants.

A former chairman of Pizza Express, Mr Johnson's role at Channel 4 is non-executive.

Wembley sold the old English national football stadium in 1999 to concentrate on its gaming operations.

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