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Last Updated: Monday, 15 January 2007, 15:47 GMT
Who is Sheikh Mohammed?
Cornelius Lysaght
By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC racing correspondent

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum - to give him his full name - has built the biggest bloodstock empire there's ever been.

And now he is the central figure in one of football's biggest takeovers as the investment arm of Dubai's government nears a buy-out of Liverpool FC.

SHEIKH MOHAMMED
Sheikh Mohammed
Age: 57
Nationality: United Arab Emirates
Position: Vice-president UAE, ruler of Dubai
Wealth: Estimated 7bn. Add in 'family money' and some reports rate him world's 5th richest man
Hobbies: Horse racing, camel racing. Patron of Dubai events including golf and tennis

Comparisons have already been made with Chelsea's billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich, but the Sheikh is a man apart - one who has helped revolutionise the world of horse racing.

A keen and talented horseman in his native Dubai, he was educated in Britain, at the Sandhurst Military Academy, and is said to have taken a train to see the horse credited with giving him a first taste of racing success.

She was called Hatta, trained by John Dunlop, and won the unremarkable Bevendene Maiden Stakes at Brighton in June 1977, worth a mere 968.

Within a few years the Sheikh, now 57, the ruler of Dubai and number two in the whole United Arab Emirates (UAE), was travelling by chauffeur-driven limo and helicopter to see his dozens of horses in action.

His brothers Sheikhs Maktoum, Hamdan and Ahmed were involved too, and today they own a total of about 3,000 horses worldwide, but mainly in Britain.

Probably the most successful are members of the Godolphin stable, founded by Sheikh Mohammed in 1992, so that he could have a hands-on role in the training.

The idea was, and basically still is, that while Europe shivered during its winter, the horses would benefit from being stabled in the Dubai sunshine before returning for the European summer.

This system had the added advantage for the Sheikh that he could oversee his equine investments while also staying close to the day-to-day running of his homeland.

THE MAKTOUM EMPIRE
Arsenal's Emirates Stadium
Sports backed by the Maktoum family include:
Football: Arsenal's Emirates Stadium
Motor racing: A1 GP
Horse racing: Dubai World Cup
Cricket: Encouraged ICC move to Dubai from Lord's
Godolphin has been generally highly successful, and has played a big part in the commercial development of Dubai as one of the world's most sought-after sporting, holiday and business destinations.

Horses with names like Dubai Millennium (Sheikh Mohammed's favourite) and Dubai Destination have kept the area's name prominent in the minds of the well-heeled that are marketing targets.

And the employment of an exuberant and popular stable jockey in Frankie Dettori has helped raise the profile further.

The Maktoums' investment in racing over the last 30 years or so has spelled nothing short of a revolution.

That 968 purse at Brighton suddenly feels a lifetime away: Sheikh Mohammed and his brothers have pumped millions of their oil, tourism and shipping dollars into the sport.

Their deadly rivals at the Irish-based Coolmore operation apart, they dominate world racing.

Much of the investment has proved a triumph, with Godolphin winning more than 130 top races in 11 different countries.

Sheikh Mohammed and Frankie Dettori
The boys in blue: Sheikh Mohammed and Frankie Dettori
Though, just as in football, money does not guarantee success.

Famously, Sheikh Mohammed paid a whopping $10.2m (5m) in 1983 for Snaafi Dancer, a horse that was not only so slow that he never raced, but at stud he proved infertile as well.

Friends speak of a man who is fiercely competitive, highly ambitious - reports suggest he is the world's fifth richest man, but he does not enjoy finishing fifth - and a lover of all sports, so a move into football is an understandable one.

He once wrote: "In the race for excellence, there's no finish line". It could almost read: "The Uefa Cup is not an option".

Of course, Liverpool fans are Merseyside's Reds. But Team Godolphin, because of the colour of their racing silks, are known as the Boys in Blue.

What a lot of fun those that dream up the chants from the terraces - particularly blue Evertonians - are going to have with all this.



SEE ALSO
Liverpool close to 156m takeover
15 Jan 07 |  Liverpool
Dubai firm buys Travelodge hotels
18 Aug 06 |  Business
Racing grieves for Sheikh Maktoum
04 Jan 06 |  Horse Racing


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