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Page last updated at 20:21 GMT, Friday, 17 September 2010 21:21 UK

Mandaric mulls Pompey return after Leicester City sale

By Matt Slater

Milan Mandaric
Mandaric spent eight years in his first spell as Portsmouth owner

Former Portsmouth owner Milan Mandaric is considering a dramatic return to Fratton Park once he leaves his current post as chairman of Leicester City.

According to Mandaric, a Thai-led consortium is now just days away from completing its purchase of the Foxes.

The 72-year-old will then continue as chairman but only on an interim basis.

"I'm still chairman here but there's no secret about how much I love Pompey and I think I have another round left in me," Mandaric told BBC Sport.

"But committing to anything now would be wrong, for the fans here and the fans there. I will not be putting my name near any deal for a club until I'm ready."

The Serbian-American businessman enjoyed eight years as Portsmouth owner before selling the south coast club to the Gaydamak family in 2006.

Pompey's on-field success continued for three more years but things went downhill towards the end of the Gaydamak reign. That decline accelerated last season in a disastrous campaign that ended with the club in administration and relegated.


The Fratton Park outfit are currently bottom of the Championship, with just two points from six games, and remain under the control of joint administrator Andrew Andronikou.

The ownership situation is expected to change in the coming weeks with the club's last owner, Balram Chainrai, assuming control once more, but this is believed to be a short-term solution, with Chainrai still claiming to be a "reluctant owner".

Andronikou, whose foremost responsibility is to secure the best deal for Pompey's numerous creditors, has been in talks with a number of interested parties but none has so far proceeded much further than preliminary conversations and press speculation.

One of those parties, a group led by 22-year-old Tom Lever, has been linked with Mandaric but the former owner categorically denies any intention to team up with the Cheshire-based university student.

"Tom Lever called me a couple of times to talk about Portsmouth and I told him I was already chairman of another club," said Mandaric.

"Then I hear I am supposed to be making some kind of move with him. I have no intention whatsoever of getting involved with those people."

Milan Mandaric and Alexandre Gaydamak
Mandaric and Gaydamak joined forces at Portsmouth in 2006

This will come as a relief to many Pompey fans who have voiced concerns about Lever's inexperience and his plan to fund the takeover entirely with borrowed money.

Supporters of Leicester City, however, will be encouraged to hear the uncertainty surrounding their club is now just "a couple of formalities" away from resolution.

Mandaric announced the club's sale to Vichai Raksriaksorn and his son Aiyawatt last month, although details of the deal were conspicuous by their absence and the Football League failed to ratify the takeover at last week's monthly board meeting.

Speaking at the time, a league spokesman said more information on the deal was needed before formal approval could be given.

But Mandaric, who has not confirmed reports he sold the club for £40m or revealed if there are other investors in the Raksriakorn consortium, is adamant "everything is progressing nicely".

He also made it clear he is selling all his shares in Leicester City and only staying on as chairman "as long as they need me". Mandaric, who has put more than £20m into the club in equity and loans over the last three years, said he thought a new boss would be in place "sooner rather than later".

That is looking increasingly like being the 25-year-old Aiyawatt, who is already a visible presence at the Walkers Stadium along with other members of his family.

The Raksriaksorns, who own the King Power chain of duty free outlets in Thailand, were first linked with Leicester City this summer when they signed a three-year shirt sponsorship deal with the East Midlands club.

This tie-up soon developed into something more all-encompassing and the talk now is of using Leicester City to develop the King Power brand outside Thailand, and King Power to boost Leicester City's profile in the Far East.

Mandaric, who bought Leicester City in 2007 for an initial £640,000, said he is proud of his record at the club and leaves it "in much better shape than I found it, on and off the pitch".

Not all City fans will agree - the club was relegated to English football's third tier after his first full season in charge - but many will acknowledge Mandaric's financial support has been crucial in enabling the team to regain its Championship status and reach last season's play-offs.

A second coming for Mandaric at Fratton Park might also receive majority support, as he left Pompey relatively profitable and safely ensconced in the top flight, but it could pose difficulties for the Football League as he currently faces tax fraud charges related to his time at Portsmouth.

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