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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 February 2007, 13:40 GMT
Football takeover trends
By Andrew McKenzie

New owners

The year 2006 may well be remembered as the period when a football club became the rich man's must-have accessory once again.

Portsmouth, Aston Villa and West Ham all changed hands during the year and that has continued into 2007 with the sale of Liverpool.

The Thai prime minister, local businessman Steve Morgan and Dubai International Capital all tried and failed to buy the Anfield club before the successful swoop of George Gillett and Tom Hicks.

The Reds are the fifth club to be sold since the start of the Roman Abramovich revolution at Chelsea.

BBC Sport looks at how clubs have changed hands since the Premiership's birth and what is behind the latest takeover trend.


The decade that brought us the Premiership also heralded an era of clubs changing hands like they were going out of business - and for some of them that was not far from the truth.

While football floundered during the 1980s, wracked by hooliganism and the disasters at Bradford, Heysel and Hillsborough, money flooded into the game in the 1990s and the rich clambered to get a piece of the action.

Of the 'big five' that instigated the Premiership breakaway - Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham - four of them effectively changed hands during the decade.

Michael Knighton
Knighton was close to buying Man Utd for 20m
The year before the birth of the Premiership, David Dein became majority shareholder of Arsenal, Alan Sugar bought Tottenham for 8m and David Moores took over as chairman of Liverpool.

Peter Johnson soon arrived to gain control of the other half of Merseyside as owner of Everton.

The only club that started and finished the decade under the same leadership was Manchester United - the biggest catch of them all.

They were nearly bought by Michael Knighton for 20m in 1989, were floated in 1991 and then BSkyB's bid in 1998 was rejected by the UK Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

Other multi-millionaires saw the opportunities in owning a club - whether it was to help out their local club, to make money or as an alternative to splashing out on yachts and fast cars.

The following were among the biggest coups:

  • John Hall arrived at Newcastle with his dream of a Geordie nation
  • Jack Walker's millions bought him Blackburn and an early Premiership title
  • Jack Hayward secured his beloved Wolves
  • Returning hero Francis Lee became Manchester City owner
  • David Gold missed out on West Ham and landed Birmingham
  • Mohamed Al Fayed went shopping and picked up a bargain in Fulham


    Football's dabbling in the stock market did not all go to plan as clubs discovered that their value could go down as well as up.

    Some serious overspending and relegation from the Premiership proved a disastrous mix for a number of clubs.

    What the main shareholders made out of the recent sales:
    Ken Bates (Chelsea)
    Bought for 1
    Sold for 17m
    Martin Edwards (Man Utd)
    Bought for 100,000*
    Sold for 90m
    Milan Mandaric (Pompey)
    Bought for 5m
    Sold for 32m
    Doug Ellis (Aston Villa)
    Bought for 500,000
    Sold for 23m
    Terry Brown (West Ham)
    Bought for 2m
    Sold for 33.4m
    David Moores (Liverpool)
    Bought for 8m*
    Sold for 89.6m
    Figures are from reports at the time of purchase
    * Also inherited some shares
    The spectacular fall from grace of Leeds - bought by the Caspian Group for 30m in 1996 - following their financial suicide seemed to send out the final warning against clubs 'chasing the dream'.

    That was until Abramovich arrived at Chelsea in July 2003 with his billions of Russian roubles.

    Just a few months earlier Malcolm Glazer began investing in Manchester United, although it would take him over two years to gain full control of the club.

    Then came 2006's sale of the century.

    Alexandre Gaydamak, the son of a Russian billionaire, invested 20m in Pompey in January before gaining full control from Milan Mandaric in the summer for a sum of 32m.

    Then came American Randy Lerner and his 62m buyout of Aston Villa, bringing an end to deadly Doug Ellis' 24 years at the helm.

    The third and final Premiership purchase of the year came from the Icelandic consortium headed by Eggert Magnusson and funded by Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, who wrestled ownership of West Ham from Terry Brown for 105m.

    But whereas the leaders of the 1990s revolution were characterised as the English entrepreneurs of the 80s, these days it takes a bigger fish to gain control of a Premiership club.

    Now when clubs go hunting for new investors they no longer look for wealthy local businessmen with ties to the club, they go scouring the world's rich list.

    George Gillett (left) and Tom Hicks
    Gillett (left) and Hicks won the race for Liverpool
    Liverpool courted Sheikh Mohammed - the fifth richest man in the world with a fortune of $10bn - before settling for the combined fortunes of Gillett and Hicks.

    Steve Morgan - a multi-millionaire Liverpool fan who made a 70m bid for the club in 2004 - did not stand a chance.

    The Liverpool buy-out takes the number of foreign owners of Premiership clubs to seven.

    Add in the overseas companies who control Blackburn, Bolton, Newcastle and Tottenham and it means over half of the Premiership is now based outside of England.

    Surely more will follow.


    Last year former Football League chairman Keith Harris, who helped push through the West Ham, Pompey and Villa takeovers and is now head of investment bank Seymour Pierce, said: "I would like to think I'll do a handful of deals next year."

    Two Premiership teams look particularly ripe for the picking.

    Manchester City have rolled out the red carpet to potential investors without any luck so far.

    And despite Newcastle chairman Freddie Shepherd's reluctance to let go, the Magpies have already held takeover talks with American financiers Polygon and the Jersey-based Belgravia group that came to nothing.

    American Robert Earl, owner of Planet Hollywood, has recently bought into Everton, a club in desperate need of outside investment with dreams of a new stadium.

    Reading owner John Madejski has admitted his willingness to step aside and in the past month Arsenal, Tottenham and Fulham have been linked with potential buy-out.

    Kia Joorabchian has been linked with a move to Fulham after missing out on West Ham, while reports suggested the Dubai International Capital group may bid for Arsenal after failing to land Liverpool.

    But why is owning a club such an attractive proposition and is this new investment good for the game?

    Fatal attraction?
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    Lawro & Hansen on takeover deal
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    Liverpool takeover: fans' reaction
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    US business duo at Liverpool helm
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    US pair agree Liverpool takeover
    06 Feb 07 |  Liverpool
    Anfield of dreams
    06 Feb 07 |  Liverpool
    US business duo at Liverpool helm
    06 Feb 07 |  Business
    Consortium pulls out of Reds bid
    31 Jan 07 |  Liverpool
    Premier clubs enjoy summer spree
    01 Sep 06 |  Business
    Rich clubs 'good for football'
    28 Nov 06 |  Business
    Liverpool reveal Gillett approach
    26 Jan 07 |  Liverpool
    Man City 'in takeover discussion'
    07 Dec 06 |  Man City
    Shepherd wants decision from Hall
    21 Jan 07 |  Newcastle United


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