Charlton Athletic were relegated in 2007 after seven years in the Premier League
By Dan Roan and Matt Slater
League One side Charlton Athletic have rejected a takeover bid from a group led by Swiss-based fund manager Sebastien Sainsbury.
A senior source at the club said the offer had not provided proof of funds.
Sainsbury, a member of the supermarket dynasty, fronted a failed attempt to buy Leeds United in 2004.
Former Leeds United and Cardiff City chairman Peter Ridsdale has denied recent press speculation he is involved in a rival US bid for the Addicks.
That bid is being advised by Bradley Rangell, the managing director of Citibank's sports finance unit.
Rangell, who has been involved in a number of high-profile takeovers in American sport, has previously made attempts to buy Cardiff City and Hull City.
The identity of any new owners or investors is of huge importance to the board and I - they have to be right
Richard Murray Charlton Athletic chairman
Charlton Athletic are currently owned by a company called Baton 2010 Ltd, which is controlled by club chairman Richard Murray.
A life-long fan of the south-east London side, Murray was forced to restructure Charlton Athletic this summer when Charlton Athletic plc was effectively wound up with debts of more than £30m.
Charlton Athletic Football Company, which owns the players, and Charlton Athletic Holdings, which owns the Addicks' stadium The Valley and the training ground, were transferred to Murray's new company in July.
Murray has made no secret of the fact Charlton Athletic need to find new investors and he recently told a meeting of shareholders in the now worthless plc that £5m is required this season to avoid administration.
Murray has appointed UK sports finance specialists Calimere Point to advise the club on potential new investment and has said he is involved in "constant conversations with interested parties".
But in a carefully-worded statement on the club's official website, Murray has told supporters "no deal is imminent".
"Having been involved with Charlton for so long, the future of the club is paramount in my thoughts," Murray added.
"The identity of any new owners or investors is of huge importance to the board and I. They have to be right.
"When we are in a position to provide more information regarding possible takeovers or anything else, the club will announce it via its usual channels.
After a slow start, Phil Parkinson's team are back in the play-off spots
"We're committed to being as open as possible with fans, but we're not going to issue a statement every time there is some kind of rumour."
Sainsbury's interest in the club first came to light when he registered a takeover vehicle called Charlton Athletic 2010 Ltd in July.
Sainsbury, the great grandson of supermarket chain founder John James Sainsbury, is listed as the sole shareholder of that firm but his group is understood to also include a local property developer.
BBC Sport understands his offer has divided opinion on Charlton's five-man board with at least two directors concerned about the level of borrowing involved.
After seven consecutive seasons in the Premier League, the Addicks were relegated to the Championship at the end of the 2006-07 campaign and went down to League One in May 2009.
The Addicks have been the subject of considerable takeover speculation over the last three years.
In October 2008, they received an offer from Dubai-based consortium Zabeel Investments but the deal collapsed soon after, and last year they were linked with a bid from former Newcastle United colleagues Dennis Wise and Tony Jimenez.
Charlton Athletic were condemned to a second season in English football's third tier when they lost a play-off semi-final to Swindon Town.
Despite this setback and the club's debts, Charlton Athletic remain a relatively attractive proposition to investors as the side's famous ground, The Valley, has been extensively modernised over the last decade and boasts a capacity of 27,000.
They also have a recently refurbished training ground and a potential fanbase that is only going to grow thanks to London 2012-related regeneration and government plans to build thousands of new homes in the wider area.
Relegation from the Premier League forced the club to postpone its ambition to complete The Valley's redevelopment - a scheme that would take capacity to more than 40,000 - but those plans could be dusted off if the club's fortunes improve.
The disappointment of May's play-off defeat appeared to carry over into this campaign but Phil Parkinson's side have improved in recent weeks and are now fifth in the table after three straight wins.
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